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DVD review: 'Argento's Dracula'

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'Argento's Dracula'

Rating:
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There have been a few reviews by this examiner that bemoan the fall of the once-great director Dario Argento.

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His latest project was released in theaters as 'Dracula 3D'. For most home video releases, it is known as 'Argento's Dracula.'

Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) is a librarian who is hired by Count Dracula to organize his library. Harker's wife Mina (Marta Gastini) arrives into town a little later to be with her husband and to see her best friend Lucy (Asia Argento). At the castle, Harker notices some strange things like a lack of reflections and an attractive blonde who seems very interested in his neck...

Meanwhile, Lucy begins to fall ill and there is unrest within the town. Mina tries to nurse her friend back to health but is unsuccessful. Dracula then approaches Mina and has his own designs on her, as she reminds him of his dear departed first love.

All of this commotion arouses the attention of Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer), a seasoned vampire hunter.

Right off the bat, the film looks extremely cheap and set-bound. None of the backgrounds look like anything other than poorly computer-animated creations or hastily constructed sets for a stage.

Don't expect this to be a faithful translation of the source material. That is fine because it helps to mix things up a little bit. The spirit of the novel mostly remains intact but some key scenes and relationships are reimagined, especially the ending. Another concept that doesn't work at all is a very liberal interpretation of Dracula's ability to transform into animals and travel across the land. Many of the creatures he becomes have been established in other works like a wolf, mist, maybe even the flies. What about the owl, the cockroaches and...wait for it...the six foot tall praying mantis? That's right, a human-sized mantis. It looks as lame and unconvincing as it sounds.

The 3D gimmick rears its ugly head once again. Perhaps some of these CGI creatures that the Count transforms into looked halfway decent with goofy glasses on, but the effect was likely magnified. These moments look badly animated and they stick out from the rest of the scene rather than being a seamless part of it.

The acting. Good God man, the acting. It is some of the worst acting this examiner has ever seen in a movie that is populated by so-called professionals in front of the camera and a master behind the camera. Hauer actually does a fine job with what he has to work with and Kretschmann isn't bad, but everyone else seems to be struggling with the English language and their delivery. Many of the cast seems to be slightly drugged and they speak in a very stitled way, as if they are literally reading their lines from off camera for the first time. Perhaps a big part of it is some careless dubbing, but it is mind-boggling that anyone could look at the footage and feel that it was good enough.

As always, Argento's strength here lies in some of the gore effects. The man has proven that he can stage a violent scene with exaggerated splatter. Sadly, this story is missing some of his trademark production design and stylish flourishes. While we're at it, he also has an eye for fetching young women and excessive nudity. Then again, that's not really a life skill...

Special features include: behind the scenes, a trailer and a red band trailer.

'Argento's Dracula' could be a new low for the director. It isn't quite as boring as 'Giallo', and the decision to try a well-worn story isn't a bad one, but nothing good is brought to the table. The execution is abysmal and it looks cheap.

It might be time to give up on this guy. His last great movie was in 1987, after all.

Add an extra half star to this review.

Rated R 110 minutes 2014

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