I consider myself to be an “Argentophile”. I own almost everything the Italian maestro of fear has directed. I consider films like Suspiria (1977), Profondo Rosso (1975) and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) to be masterpieces of the directors’ work. So when I heard that Argento was going to tackle Bram Stoker’s gothic tale I was naturally intrigued yet extremely cautious. I was even more so once I saw the trailer that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival.
|Yes it is jaw dropping bad.|
Argento’s Dracula 3D, to be blunt, is an incredibly bad pile of crap. I knew I was in trouble right from the get go when the opening credits are accompanied by a point of view aerial sequence that has the camera flying through a village. It sounds nice doesn’t it? I mean who better than to swing the camera through a centuries old village than Argento. The man astounded me with his incredible louma crane sequence in Tenebrae (1982) but this, this looked to me to have been an entire sequence accomplished through the magic of CGI. I could be wrong but it looked pretty fake. Add to the fact that the village buildings are flat out colorless!
|Insert your own comment here...|
The story line itself is pretty much standard Dracula fair, there is nothing all that new going on there. What is new is some interesting concepts about the count himself that ultimately fall completely flat due to bad acting, direction and lack of budget.
Dracula (Thomas Kretschman) is introduced to us in the form of an owl which is pretty cool other than the fact that the CGI used to achieve this is rather laughable. Dracula can also transform into wolf form as well much like in Stoker’s novel. The only problem with this is, again, the lack of budget. The transformation scene looks like it was done on someone’s home computer. There is no detail to the composition of the wolf creature. It’s rather smooth looking which really adds to the fakeness of it. There is absolutely nothing terrifying about the scene because the effect leaves you laughing at how horrible it looks. Another scene has Dracula forming from a swarm of flies.
|Stivaletti's work looks pretty good here....|
Now this effect looked okay and the final shot has a couple of flies crawling under the skin of Dracula which looks pretty nifty. The scene also includes probably the best effect in the entire film as Dracula goes on a rampage with his “constituents” and massacres them all. Sergio Stivaletti is credited for the prosthetics and mechanical effects so I have to assume this was his work. I’m not sure if was involved in the CGI work and to be honest I don’t want to know who was responsible for it, I just want them to never ever work in the field again.
|But not here.....and yes that is a very big Praying Mantis.|
|Hauer defends himself against the script.|
Of the many flaws with this film, I have to turn my attention to the casting of Rutger Hauer as Abraham Van Helsing. Hauer plays the character with no accent, no gusto, no nothin’. A flat performance indeed but maybe it’s because he knew the film was a train wreck and just said screw it. If I was cast in this stink bomb, I would have just enjoyed the fact that A: They thought enough of me to cast me and B: We’re filming in Spain, enjoy the time there. At least Hauer looked the part pretty well but he is clearly just walking through the part. Argento’s daughter, Asia, is also cast and in the role of Lucy Westenra……..er…..Kisslinger. Wait, what? Why on Earth would Argento use the names of Stoker’s characters but yet change the name of just one? Anyway, Asia has always been easy on the eyes and she is again here but I’ve always considered her a pretty decent actress. She comes across rather wooden in her portrayal as the doomed Lucy. Maybe she knew her dad wasn’t up to snuff with directing this film? Who knows? Who cares? Maybe Leonard Nimoy? Maybe he can host an episode of “In Search Of” and see if he can find Argento’s dignity? Ouch that was harsh, however there is truth in that statement because watching this movie is more painful than having Drac suck the life out of me which by the 30 minute mark would have been a blessing.
|Miriam Giovanelli.....nuff said.|
So what is the redeeming value of this 90 minute opus of the asinine? The nudity that’s what. The casting department did a bang up job casting Miriam Giovanelli as the peasant wife turned Dracula’s main undead squeeze Tanja. Tanja bares it all within the first 10 minutes of film before being assaulted by the owl formed vampire. She again bares it all once more in a seductive attack on Jonathan Harker. Asia Argento even gets in to the booby act in a bathing scene which reminds the viewer why we like her in the first place.
Asia’s signature tattoo work is also well hidden during this scene in order to keep the viewer in complete belief that this movie takes place in the early 19th century. This brings me to mention the look of the film. It’s just bad. There is not one iota of Argento’s cinematic abilities on show for us in this. It’s flat and lifeless. The lighting makes the film look like a slick porno flick. This is just one of the worse films I have seen in quite a while. So if you happen to be flipping through Netflix or perusing the Blu-rays at Best Buy and come across this cinematic fatality do yourself a favor and keep going……..unless you like to be tortured like I do and take it for a spin.