Sunday, November 20, 2011

Renfield the undead – review

Director: Bob Willems

Release date: 2010

contains spoilers

I saw this at the 2010 Bram Stoker International Film Festival and really didn’t like it. Put on as the last film on one of the nights, the filmmakers had given a new cut to the organisers and it just went on and on. By the end I reckoned it needed about an hour shaved off.

From what I can tell the DVD edit seems to have half an hour shaved off but it is still too long, too ponderous. The trouble is that it is the flashback material, referencing loosely Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that could actually be easily cut and, unfortunately, that contains some of the most interesting stuff – if a rather unconvincing Van Helsing (K.R. Kretz).

resurrect the master...
The film is bookended by a woman in a bar being picked up by a man, who can read thoughts, going to his and her picking up the comic book of Renfield the Undead. The contents are therefore the film. It begins with a rather unconvincing puppet (or so it looked to me) suggesting that the way to bring the house of Dracul back to power would be to resurrect the master. The trouble is, where are his remains? Bayou City, USA perhaps.

Roxy Hixon as Mina
A couple are out, getting ready to make out on the blanket, on the ground – not to go getting all country on you. They fail to spot the vampire, Quincy Harker (Tyler Tackett), crawling all over the roof of their car until he engages them, tossing the man (Andrew Peacock) aside and attacking the woman. The man, for his trouble, is attacked by Mina Harker (Roxy Hixon). Yes this is Mina from Dracula and her son Quincy, Later we hear that Jonathon (Andrew Adams) left Mina when it became apparent that Quincy was part vampire. Mina refers to Count Dracula (John Stevens) as Quincy’s father.

Cranston puzzling over the crimes
Cranston (Paul Damon) is a Brit working homicide in Bayou City, for some reason. He has a violent phobia of bugs and the city seems to have been crawling with them recently. He is the lead on the Bayou City Butcher case – a serial killer in their midst. This is one of the things I disliked about the film… location. Cranston’s office looked like a converted living room rather than a cop’s office (and, to be ultra-picky, the whiteboard misspelled exsanguination). Cranston’s partner Landon (Calvin Lafiton) has a theory that perhaps the murders and the bug infestation are connected.

Renfield attacks
Out in the city a man picks up a whore. They go down an alley and, after some rapid head, she is about to leave and he tries to rape her. She stabs him, but is chanced upon by Renfield (Phil Nichols), now a vampire and still quite mad. He chows down on the woman and then takes her head… he is the Bayou City Butcher. The makeup re Renfield actually grew on me, whilst it looked fairly false at first it had a comic book quality to it and I liked the Nosferatu-esque quality.

autopsy on the Captain
The last main character to meet is pathologist (and friend of Cranston) Dr Bonnie Johnson (Keli Wolfe). When we meet her she is carrying out an autopsy on a Captain Max Schreck (Patrick Slagle) – yeah, I know, a reference too far. He has throat injuries, rope marks where he lashed himself to the wheel of a ship, a crucifix still in his hand and has been drained of blood. Bonnie suggests it’s like something out of a vampire story (but somehow hasn’t made the same observation with regards the Butcher, as the suposition of the Butcher being a vampire is never mentioned before vampirism being revealed to the cops). Why this scene? I don’t know, it really didn’t work so well as it seemed superfluous referencing of the Demeter scene from the source novel.

fly form vampire
(Still rather too) long story short. Renfield has Dracula’s remains, Mina and Quincy want to resurrect him and Renfield takes a shine to Bonnie. The flashbacks to what happened to Renfield through the Stoker story (which was still published in this universe) are the most interesting points. Renfield seems to have a bug aspect to his vampirism. One of his victims turns into a bug vampire and he is knocked out by an injection of bug killing chemicals.

John Stevens as Dracula
Most of the acting was, at best, average – though Nichols did have a whale of a time as Renfield and nailed the madness aspect of the character. The worst thing about the film is, however, the length. It still needs cutting down and tightening up through the editing process. That said, I enjoyed this more than I did last year and the score has risen up to 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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