I've been partaking in some vampire media of late, re-watching Tod Browning's Dracula and Cinemassacre's Dracula showdown, and I've been hopelessly addicted to Castlevania Symphony Of The Night for a solid week. It's awesome, and so was this movie! I only had two wants stepping in, let me see the 1930s Universal logo and let me hear Swan Lake, I did not get either but I am so not even mad! I'm counting this along with 2020's The Invisible Man as the future of the Universal Monsters, taking classic iconic monsters and doing something new and unique with them. It's kind of a pseudo sequel to 1931's Dracula, which works surprisingly well considering the monster movies of the 40s had their continuity fast and loose so it doesn't have to match up exactly. We of course follow Renfield, familiar to the world known Count who is hoping for a change in his life. He starts gradually building a life of his own in New Orleans and spending less time with Dracula, leading him to cross paths with a police officer named Rebecca on the blood trail investigation as they each have their own goals to accomplish. The first thing I gotta tell you is, Nicholas Hoult is fucking great in this role! I know people could complain about, well he's nothing like Dwight Frye but 1.) That's dismissing character innovation, and 2.) You just couldn't replicate that. Even Peter MacNicol in Dracula Dead And Loving It, even he couldn't do Dwight Frye but he came damn close! Nicholas has the right chops for this, perfectly casted in my opinion, he can do the comedy well, when it's time for the big guns he can act so well in scenes requiring drama and emotion, and is just a great lead to follow! Now what do I think of Nicolas Cage as Dracula? Well again I appreciate immensely that they don't just do Bela Lugosi or even Max Shreck, he makes it his Dracula. Now he doesn't go all out, you're not getting Vampire's Kiss part 2 here, he's there to be an intimidating and mostly serious villain for Renfield to overcome and it works very very well. And I have to admit I never equated the vampire/familiar relationship to well...an actual toxic relationship, it's pretty unique how they handle it and it really ain't far from the mark. Awkwafina as Rebecca is absolutely the comic relief but they dial her down as the film progresses, and I feel her story is a solid one trying to avenge her father Morris Quincy (Ha!) and I'll freely admit her and Renfield share some super cute moments. Insert still a better love story than Tw-back to the review. I wasn't fully feeling the kinda unrelated mob family element, I know it's part of Rebecca's story and progression but I also simultaneously felt it wasn't terribly needed as much as it was in the film. But the story and the characters are still great, and yes it gets some hardcore brownie points for incorporating seamless footage at times of the original film with Nic and Nicholas digitally added in, and of course I quoted it because I'm me. The technical aspects are pretty grand too, if you're a bloodhound this movie is up your alley, I mean they take Evil Dead levels of blood and elevate that higher somehow, with a great deal of practical effects, makeup and prosthetics, and solid direction that really put a smile on my face. The comedy works quite well I found, and it's not a joke a minute and if I'm being really honest I don't consider it a full on comedy. Now I know I'm biased, I love the Universal Monsters, I still mourn the Dark Universe, so this won't be an objective rating. But when I stack it all up, those pros really overwhelm those odds. And given the fact this movie made me settle on not just finally sitting down and reading the Bram Stoker novel to appreciate all the adaptations more but also actually wanting to watch and review the spanish version of Dracula, and I swear to you now that will happen this October (So let it be written, so let it be done.), so clearly this worked for me. And the audience I watched it with, even though not many of them probably knew the Lugosi movie, seemed to really enjoy it too. So hey, it might work for both fans and newcomers. I give it a full 4 gold stars, and a 9/10! So check it out, and all you hardcore blood drooling beast of the night fans go point out all the nifty nods and easter eggs. Have a bit of fun and drink up.
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