When I sat down to watch “Renfield” at the movie theater, one of the new trailers was “The Last Voyage of The Demeter.” If “Demeter” rings a ship bell, it was the doomed ship that carried Dracula from Romania to England. Robert Pattinson will reportedly play the vampire in Chloe Zhao’s “Dracula.” All three vampire movies are from Universal Pictures.
Why is Universal putting out so many vampire movies?
“Renfield” opens with Renfield, played by Nicholas Hoult, sitting in a therapy group at a church. He talks about his toxic relationship with his boss, Dracula, played by Nicolas Cage.
The movie rewinds to show how they first met in the “Dracula” movie in 1931. The faces of Hoult and Cage replacing Dwight Frye and Bela Lugosi in their respective roles. A clever way to tie back this movie to the original movie.
While battling a vampire hunter and a priest, Dracula gets burnt to a crisp from sunlight. Fast forward 90 years to modern-day New Orleans. Dracula is still recovering from his injuries in an abandoned hospital. Renfield very much wants to live his own life.
The therapy group enables Renfield to get his own place and start a romantic relationship. When Dracula finds out that his needs were being neglected, he confronts Renfield and then the therapy group. When someone shouts out that he was Renfield’s boss, he kills them all.
That prompts Renfield to put an end to Dracula once and for all.
“Renfield” fell short of being funnier than my favorite vampire movie, “Love at First Bite.” That shouldn’t be a surprise since “Love at First Bite” had the best Saturday Night Live talent of the 1970s.
The romantic relationship between Renfield and a traffic cop, played by Awkwafina, seems weak. The gratuitous blood spray lacked style and consistency. Nicolas Cage’s portrayal as Dracula was the best part of the movie.
The Last Voyage of The Demeter (2023)
“The Last Voyage of The Demeter” will come out on August 11, 2023. This movie is based on the captain’s log in Chapter Seven of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” The Demeter takes a month-long voyage from the Black Sea through the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel.
Most Dracula movies abbreviate this part of the story. Dracula’s casket gets loaded on to the Demeter in Romania. The Demeter gets found drifting off the coast of England. What happens during the voyage itself has never been explored in a dedicated movie.
Chloe Zhao’s Dracula (TBD)
We know very little about Chloe Zhao’s “Dracula” except that it will be a science fiction western movie. Think “Cowboys & Aliens” with a vampire replacing the aliens.
Bram Stroker’s “Dracula” mentions a wealthy Texan, Quincy Morris, as being one of three suitors for Lucy. Dracula movies do away with the wannabe suitors and present Lucy already engaged to a son of a nobleman. But what if Lucy got engaged to the Texan and Dracula came to America instead?
Robert Pattinson reportedly may play the vampire in this “Dracula” remake. He started off as a high school vampire in the “Twilight” movies. He dressed up as a bat in “The Batman.” He could return as Dracula himself in this movie.
No date on when this movie will be released.
Why So Many Vampire Movies?
The reason why Universal is putting out so many Dracula movies may have to do with copyright.
The source material for “Dracula” and the other monster movies are in the public domain. None of those novels don’t describe the characters in any great detail. Descriptive storytelling wasn’t a thing for 19th-century novelists.
When Universal released “Dracula” in 1931, they took copyright on the film and the likeness of the characters. Universal went to established the “default” look for each monster for generations to come. Ushering in the era of Universal Monsters and their stranglehold on copyright.
Want to make a “Dracula” movie based on the 1897 novel by Bram Stroker?
You can do that.
Want to make a “Dracula” movie where Dracula looks like Universal’s Dracula?
You better get a license from Universal.
Disney got Congress to extend the copyright law three times to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. Current copyright protection for corporate owners is 95 years after publication or 120 years from creation.
All the Universal Monster movies from the 1930s will soon be entering the public domain. “Dracula,” for example, will enter the public domain in 2026. Universal—like Disney—probably has trademarks that don’t expire to limit the usage of the public domain version.
As for all the new movies coming out, don’t expect them to fall into the public domain until 2143.
There is one more vampire movie coming out on the horizon. “Renfield” actor Nicholas Hoult will be playing the vampire in the remake of the 1922 silent movie, “Nosferatu.”
“Nosferatu” was unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stroker’s “Dracula” with some details changed. A vampire hires a real estate agent to buy property in Germany and goes after the real estate agent’s wife. The remake has entered production and will be distributed by Focus Features.
I left this movie out of my list because it wasn’t listed as a Universal movie. After additional fact checking, I discovered that Focus Features was owned by Universal. That is four—count them, four—new vampire movies from Universal.