Italian director Dario Argento has been in the filmmaking business for over 40 years and is mostly known for sticking to the giallo film genre and typically writing and producing his own works in addition to directing them. Personally speaking, the love for his work is baffling. "Suspiria" is seen as one of the greatest horror films of all time to some, but Goblin's score overpowers the dialogue at nearly every turn and its artistic visuals outweigh any sort of coherent storytelling. "Mother of Tears" and "Trauma" were tolerable whereas Argento's last feature film "Giallo" was rather disappointing. The "Masters of Horror" episode Argento directed called "Pelts" may be the best thing he's ever done. Now, Argento is back with his take on Dracula. While it is the director's first time filming in 3D, "Argento's Dracula 3D" suffers from complete discombobulation.
Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) has been summoned to Transylvania by a family friend named Lucy Kisslinger (Asia Argento) to work for Count Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann). Jonathan's wife Mina (Marta Gastini) is expected to join him in Transylvania in a few days, but he turns up missing by the time she arrives. As Dracula feeds on whoever crosses his path with a beating heart, he becomes mesmerized with Mina because of her resemblance to his late wife. Fearing the worst for her husband's fate and afraid of what the future might bring for herself, Mina contacts Abraham Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer) for assistance.
Finding strengths in "Argento's Dracula 3D" is like searching for a recent Miley Cyrus image on the internet that doesn't involve her sticking her tongue out and/or twerking. There is quite a lot of nudity, but that's to be expected in an Argento film. The best scene in the film is the, "Who wants to break our pact?" sequence. The kills are visually fantastic, there's an endless amount of blood in those precious yet glorious few moments, and there's even a slow-motion headshot at its conclusion that's fairly impressive. Unfortunately, "Argento's Dracula 3D" fails to be worthwhile beyond a few scenes of extreme gore and nudity.
It was a relief to see that a certain scene involving a giant praying mantis that could be seen in the film's promotional trailer made it into the final cut of the film. Why would something so nonsensical be in a film about Dracula? It doesn't stop there. In other incarnations of Dracula, he had the ability to transform into a bat at will. Dario Argento must've thought that was too boring and took the "children of the night" saying a bit too literally. Dracula takes the form of an owl, a wolf, a trio of cockroaches, a swarm of flies, and that ridiculous giant praying mantis throughout the duration of the film. If you can suspend disbelief for a short amount of time, most of those creatures are considered nocturnal but the praying mantis seems like it was thrown in because it had “praying” in its name and because churches are featured in the film.
The special effects are extremely outdated and mostly terrible. The film opens with cheesy and winding 3D effects that are about as remarkable as the graphics on the Nintendo 64 would be today. While some of the set pieces like Dracula's library and any time someone rides a horse on a cobblestone road, everything else looks fake or added in. Obviously some green screen effects were used, but nothing seems to look natural. The entire atmosphere of the film feels very artificial thanks to its presentation.
The acting is also on the poor side. Nearly every actor in the film speaks English as a second language and the dialogue feels very broken because of it. The main cast is slightly better, but they don't have much to boast about either. Asia Argento seems to be around long enough to get naked and have a sponge bath while Thomas Kretschmann is actually quite decent during the calmer moments of the film, but once his fangs come out his performance immediately becomes outrageous. Rutger Hauer doesn't show up for over an hour into the film. Like everyone else in the cast, he's very wooden and stiff in his line delivery. His old man toss followed by a sloppy computer generated eyeball kill doesn't really work in his favor either.
Rutger Hauer mutters something about Dracula using "the power of passion" and that "his passion is a savage fire that consumes what he wants most." By that point, if you're not rolling your eyes and choking back the urge to violently drive a wooden stake into the undead heart that birthed such atrocities, then you truly are blinded by your Dario Argento fanaticism. "Argento's Dracula 3D" is an absolute travesty of a film completely devoid of creativity or imagination. It's like taking your favorite folklore, stripping it of everything you love about it, making it as dull as possible, and lighting it on fire right before your very eyes.
Image sources: dracula3dthemovie.com, digitaljournal.com, moviegeeksunited.net, lepublicsystemecinema.fr