Fans of the vampire genre did not have to wait very long for the first (of what is usually numerous) of the year's direct-to-DVD releases. Legendary horror director Dario (Opera, Deep Red) Argento returns from a brief hiatus in yet another spectacle of a film. Moviegoers and critics alike will often be perplexed in terms of whether or not the strange directorial decisions are in favor of camp or even satire or simply trying way too hard to put an original spin on such a common tale. Either way, the final product seems rushed, poorly-acted, and altogether low budget. If this was unintentional, perhaps it is time for Argento to retire gracefully. If it was intentional, then he has successfully created a fun, albeit forgettable entry into the legendary Dracula mythology.
Dracula, theatrically (though not in the United States) released as either Argento's Dracula or even Dracula 3-D, is exactly what it is. Another somewhat faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. As per usual in the genre, we are treated to several gratuitous scenes of both nudity and violence early on and throughout the film. But those have become such a staple in the genre that they are not only expected, but have somehow become easily-ignored and therefore forgiven. But the acting of the four lead characters is somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand, Rutger (Blade Runner, The Hitcher) Hauer delivers a solid performance as Van Helsing and even Thomas (Wanted, Valkyrie) Kretschmann is convincing as the immortal titular character. Though Marta (The Rite, Borgia) Gastina creates a believable and even at times likable Mina Harker, she is overshadowed by the terrible acting of her doomed friend, Lucy, played by Asia (XXX, Land of the Dead) Argento. Perhaps another nail in her father's coffin would be the casting of his daughter in such an obviously desperate attempt to revive both of their careers.
But the film is not a complete loss. In fact, the special effects (though cheesy and immediately outdated) are quite fun. And no matter how many times they remake or retell this story, whether in prose format, on the big screen, or even on TV, it is always going to be fun to see which elements are altered, changed, or kept the same. For that reason alone, this is a fun watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. If you want a good vampire film, this is not your best choice. But if you enjoy the genre and are looking for some over-the-top Argento style, it will work out just fine.