Dracula’s lackey bites back in this horror-comedy by Chris McKay, Ryan Ridley, and Robert Kirkman
There have been countless iconic portrayals of Count Dracula over the years, with the character first appearing in Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic novel where we also meet his vermin-eating assistant, Renfield.
Inspired by the characters from the novel, this modern monster tale focuses on Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) who has spent years being Dracula’s (Nicolas Cage) servant and begins to seek a new life without murder and his master.
Directed and produced by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), this 21st-century Dracula adaptation combines horror and comedy with lots of blood, guts, and gore. Accompanying Cage and Hoult in Renfield are Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
Outpost’s Montreal and Mumbai teams worked across multiple key sequences for Renfield.
“Renfield’s scope of work mainly included a lot of CG/2D blood; comedy gore using CG assets such as a decapitated head and amputated arms; CG fork and oyster trays used as weapons; CG insects that get eaten; protection circles; CG Dracula fangs and Dracula smoke; X-ray bones breaking; and CG poop and vomit,” explains VFX Supervisor, Sheen Yap.
“The creative challenges were trying to find a good balance between over-the-top comedy gore and realism.
“For example, we had a shot that involved arms being chopped off an oyster tray. We built CG digital arms with all the muscles and bones inside for the cross-section and added FX blood spraying out in all directions. We were given references to Monty Python’s ‘Salad Days’ sketch, which is essentially over-the-top blood spraying out like a hose in all directions, to try and replicate in the FX simulation.
“Another creative challenge was the full CG X-ray bone-breaking shots. In the story, Renfield kicks another character so hard in the stomach that it shatters their ribs and spine. The force of the kick also pushes up the stomach fluid through both ends resulting in the character projectile vomiting and defecating in the most outrageous manner.
“The first part of the challenge was to get the X-ray look right. We modeled and textured an X-ray version of our CG Digi double that had internal organs and a skeleton. We started with a pass of animation before handing it over to FX for the bone-shattering and CFX for the organs and fluid simulation. Lighting and Comp then pulled it together balancing the visibility of each element (such as bone density vs organ and fluid density) so we can still read the main action going on whilst maintaining the X-ray look.”
Another challenge for the Outpost team was creating a protection circle that serves as a way of trapping Dracula when he attacks. Where this protection circle was originally featured in Stoker’s Dracula novel with sprinkles of bread, in Renfield you see any powder available being used, including cocaine.
“One of the hardest challenges was the protection circle as it is a creative magical component that we had to do a couple rounds of concept and look development. The protection circle had to form a closed circular barrier and feel like it has enough energy to trap Dracula firmly within it,” Sheen continues.
“We referenced aurora beams, whirlpool swirls, hot coals, and embers to build up the layers making the protection circle. It ended up being a combined effort from FX and Comp to bring it to life.”