Dracula lives off human blood, but the movie Renfield is soaked in it — while not the most violent movie ever made, the demented supernatural action comedy is packed with what director Chris McKay calls “splatt-stick humor.”
“We wanted to go for it,” McKay tells Consequence. “Budget and time dictated a lot of what we could do, and I mean, yeah, the studio was obviously somewhat nervous about letting us go crazy with things. And they were very responsible, which is the right thing to do. You need the studio as your parents, to help you not go too far out of control. But we felt on set that we needed to go for it as much as we could, because we wanted the movie to be a little over the top. The script was over the top, the ideas were over the top. And so the movie needed to match that.”
Continues McKay, “Obviously the studio had an opinion about how many times we get to explode a priest. If it would’ve been up to me, I would’ve had that priest explode 15 more times. But I think the studio ended up with three, and I think that’s probably right.”
Adds producer Robert Kirkman, with a laugh: “I would’ve had him explode 400 times.”
The Universal film brings a new, modern interpretation to the relationship between Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) and the infamous Dracula (Nicolas Cage), something Kirkman (who has a “Story By” credit on the film) says evolved out of Ryan Ridley’s script.
When we meet Dracula’s familiar at the beginning of the film, he’s ground down by decades of serving his master — only to have his perspective on their relationship altered by a support group for people in toxic relationships. “It started out as a nuts-and-bolt method for Renfield finding victims to feed Dracula,” Kirkman says. “[Ridley]’s the one who hit upon this deep core of the toxic relationship between Renfield and Dracula, and how that worked. It really gave us a big through line for codependency that was the skeleton we were able to hang the whole story on.”
As Renfield looks to change his life and break free of Dracula’s control, things get complicated — and graphic — thanks to a local crime family, not to mention a corrupt police force and Dracula himself. McKay credited his team, including makeup department head Christien Tinsley, stunt coordinator Chris Brewster, and the visual effects artists, with making the gloriously chaotic action scenes possible — including the amount of practical effects captured on camera.