Saturday, 25 May 2024

‘Renfield’ campy vampire follies; new drama series on CW


Missing from the poster art and the trailers, the tag line for “Renfield” is apparently “Evil doesn’t span eternity without a little help.” The “evil,” of course, as you may guess from the titular character’s association, refers to Count Dracula.

The help comes from the tortured aide of history’s most narcissistic boss, the bloodsucking vampire we all know and love from a plethora of films and novels.

Trapped in an eternal hell is the hapless Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), who is forced to procure his master’s prey. He’s ready to break free if only he can escape the Stockholm Syndrome.

Life has become so intolerable for Renfield that he joined a support group that deals with toxic relationships. Ready to see if there’s life outside the shadow of the Prince of Darkness, Renfield only needs to figure out how to end his codependency.

Nicolas Cage’s Dracula is so maniacally egotistical and self-absorbed that he never misses a chance to debase and humiliate his indentured servant Renfield to do his every bidding.

Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire has been adapted so many times in cinematic productions that one can’t possibly keep track. Who is the best Dracula? Would it be Gary Oldman, Frank Langella or Christopher Lee? They seem to be second fiddle to Bela Legosi.

Let’s get to the point that Nicolas Cage is playing the nefarious vampire for campy fun. Sort of like what Leslie Nielsen delivered in Mel Brooks’ “Dracula: Dead and Loving It.”

The most unlikely Dracula was probably George Hamilton’s spoof of the vampire in “Love at First Bite.” Not that he didn’t have some fun with the character, but how could a guy with an aversion to sunlight have a Malibu surfer’s tan?

In “Renfield,” Count Dracula wears enough pancake makeup that exposure to the sun would melt his face. And if ever there was someone outside of Great Britain with a need for a good dental plan, he’s the one.

Dracula is not alone in tormenting poor Renfield. The Lobo New Orleans crime family, run by matriarch Bellafrancesca (Shoreh Aghdashloo), is at war with Renfield when he chooses to align with New Orleans police officer Rebecca (Awkwafina).

Corruption runs so rampant in New Orleans that the Lobo family has free reign, partly as the result of a police force so crooked that Rebecca is apparently the only honest cop in town. But Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz) is so dim-witted that his enforcer role is a joke.

While Renfield ends up wearing pastel-colored sweaters, he does find a way to become assertive and bold, to say nothing of his superhuman strength when a supply of bugs to consume is at hand.

With a serious crush on Officer Rebecca, Renfield takes on the Lobo henchmen with a graphic vengeance that results in bloody mayhem of shattered heads and severed limbs.

Turn the clock back more than thirty years, and recall that Nicolas Cage played an immortal predator in the horror comedy “Vampire’s Kiss.” It only seemed natural for him to take on the role of the most prominent vampire of them all.

No slight is meant to Nicholas Hoult’s Renfield to note that having more of Nicolas Cage’s range of emotions from absurd arrogance to real menace would have enhanced the campiness of “Renfield.”

How come vampires always end up living in New Orleans? Maybe we owe that to Anne Rice’s prolific novels. Whatever the case, the Crescent City is an appropriate venue for the genre.


Supernatural crime thriller “The Rising” is the story of Neve Kelly (Clara Rugaard), who discovers that she is dead. Understandably, she’s scared and confused by this new non-existence, but moreover, when she realizes she’s been murdered, she’s furious.

Determined to find her killer and get justice, Neve takes advantage of her new supernatural abilities to go where the police cannot and investigate her own death.

In doing so, she uncovers deeply buried secrets and is forced to re-examine everything about her life and the people she cared about. “The Rising” is a story about love, justice, and the cost of pursuing the truth in a world that wants to keep it hidden.

The Australian surfer drama “Barons” is set in a time of sexual liberation, social disruption, protest, and war. The eight-part series captures a unique moment of upheaval and opportunity as a new surfing counterculture collides with the realities of enterprise.

Two best friends, inspired by their love for the Australian beach, create what will become iconic rival surf brands. Little do they know that their success will tear them and their worlds apart.

When their businesses go mainstream, the young rebels and their friends find themselves pulled deep into a world of corporate politics, jealousy, homophobia, and racial tension.

“Barons” finds that the selling of their surfer dreams to the world has created bitter, lasting rivalries.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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