Friday, October 4, 2013

Is Dario Argento's Dracula a 3-Do or a 3-Don't?

Note to reader, filmmaker and friend before reading:

The recent wave of Italian Horror pictures have not been without fault. This is not the long fawned over golden age of the 70’s or 80’s. Our heroes haven’t fallen, but they are no longer working with the budgets they once secured, the novelty they once created or the climate of Euro-film that created many of our beloved works of Italian gore and exploit and camp. Creating movies of this type today is more of an effort at imitation for nostalgia’s sake rather than a shock driven project, a cash grab or an artistic statement misinterpreted. The review you are about to read will echo that very sentiment. It may not be what you wanted to hear, but it is also just an opinion. I encourage you to watch this picture, form an opinion and let me know about it. It’s so easy to miss the universe for the horror-verse.

Also NOTE: At the bottom of this review we have included a certain large creature that appears in the movie. This could be a spoiler, so I would avoid it if you want to be "shocked".

The latter day works of Dario Argento have let quite a few of us down. It’s not to say that they aren’t enjoyable pictures. Card Player kinda got me once I let down my guard after having been upset by The Stendhal Syndrom and Phantom of the Opera, and of course there’s the Masters of Horror episode Pelts which is a fan favorite among the Master of Horror series. It’s hard to say when things truly went downhill if fact they went downhill at all. I remember watching Trauma thinking, that was Argento? I watched Sleepless and thought the same. Depending on who you talk to you’ll get a wishing well full of pennies exchanged for not just thoughts, but testimonials. With all of that being said and trying not to dwell on my own feelings toward some of the more recent works of the master of Giallo, let’s take a look at Dracula 3D and try to allow it to have its own identity exclusive of the second half of Argento’s career in film.

Did Dracula 3D deserve a cover on Fangoria? Probably not. It’s not a great movie. This is probably where the hater contingent stands up and immediately offers a brief, “I told you so”. Yes, quite a few of us were skeptical of a movie that was not only a retelling of a boundless tale, told endlessly and in three terrifying dimensions no less (which reads gimmick to some and cash grab to others). It’s an anticipated movie to be sure, but it wasn’t the stellar release that a brief lapse in Argento releasing would suggest. I’ve heard filmmakers talk about how cinema budgets have dried up in Italy. No one wants to read subtitles anymore or watch movies that have less than adequate dubbing (well not new movies anyway). The audience turned on Italy, so the money simply isn’t there even for an Argento who gets more money than most. His vision simply seems to exceed his wallet.

Dracula 3D has some Friday the 13th Part III inspired opening credits. You’d half expect to hear an upbeat synth score in the background but you’ll settle for a bleak, open space and some very dramatic pseudo-symphonic, near Richard Band-esque dribble. It’s not impressive. It’s not Goblin (sorry, I said we wouldn’t focus on the past). You say to yourself, “so this is 3D”, and then you’d walk out of the theater because this was not a great 3-D effort. Funny enough I can even tell you this watching it in two dimensions. You know the tricks by now if you’ve been to a movie theater and had the pleasure of overpaying for a slight manipulation of graphics. Nothing to see here. Nothing that pops.

Rutger Hauer fails to impress. This in and of itself was my great let down. I only saw the Hitcher this past year for the first time and fell in love. Then I caught him in Hobo with a Shotgun and thought that the big guy still had it. He even joined the cast of Season 5 of True Blood and was competent. I didn’t really enjoy Blade Runner, but boy did I like Rutger Hauer. This was not his strongest role. His performance is typical monster movie, but with some fairly shitty dialogue. I believe he serves as nothing more than window dressing to sell the movie to an American audience. He doesn’t shit the bed mind you. He just isn’t powerful. He isn’t what you’d expect when you see his name in the credits.

The whole movie is shot in this strange sepia tone or with a yellow filter meant to give the film an aged look; to make it seem more like a period piece among some lackluster set pieces. This is a completely different look for an Argento film, and in that it’s interesting. It isn’t a regurgitation of digitized, too perfect screen captures we’ve come to expect from indie cinema as of late. It’s an attempt at being stylized that we haven’t seen in an Argento movie since the mid-80’s Unfortunately, it does very little for the film. The set pieces are as fake as a Plan 9 from Outer Space cemetery. You might as well have hired Tor Johnson in place of Rutger Hauer for name recognition.

There is, of course, one redeeming quality of Dracula 3D: well casted breasts. Please excuse me for a moment, but I haven’t seen such marvelous voluptuous women exposing themselves since them mid-70’s. Dario certainly can pick ‘em. Very impressive. That’s the pig in me coming out I suppose, but at least it caught my eye.
Then of course there’s the CGI. CGI in an Argento picture is blasphemous. You might as well find yourself at the Metropol on the wrong end of a Rosemary (Geretta Geretta) feast. The vamp kills and torture look atrocious. Fake and digitized. I mean… did anybody watch this thing before they released it? It looks worse than an average video game. There are a couple exceptions to that rule. I won’t spoil them for you if you decide to actually check the movie out, but you’ll almost think that I was lying when I tell you that there are a few gory goodies that aren’t terrible… until they slowly become terrible and then catch my dick in my zipper.

I am not in the habit of writing negative reviews especially during Italian Horror Week. I prefer to promote films that are good especially when I see a talented young filmmaker trying. I see an aging Argento, making a different movie than he’s made before and while I assure you that it isn’t the worst thing you’ll ever watch, you’ll be upset that you got a little excited waiting for its stateside release. Fans of Argento should probably try it out if you haven’t been deterred by his more recent works. Completists should watch it to satiate their neurosis. If you wanna see some spectacular mammaries… this movie has ‘em. Looking for a scary movie with a great story line and an inventive twist on Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Keep on looking.
It is important to note that I was unable to watch this movie in the 3-D format, so that may change your perception of the picture.

ARGENTO'S DRACULA 3D is now playing in select theaters and available to watch on Cable VOD as well as digital outlets (including iTunes and SundanceNow).


NOTE: Yes, there IS a giant mantis in the movie as has been revealed in numerous commentaries and interviews. No, it doesn’t work and it’s fucking ridiculous. I actually laughed and then thought, “well now maybe the movie actually goes a little Roger Corman and will camp it up”. Simply not so.
From Italian Horror Week 2013

1 comment:

  1. BOOBS!!! Dario, please, in your old age, deliver me Boobs! Your daughterse's boobs's!! They're hot.