Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Argento sucks the life out of Dracula

Dario Argento's Dracula 3D

Argento's version of Lucy's staking.

Coppola's version of the same scene.

And so here we have the latest adaptation of one of THE great works of horror literature, a new representation of one of the world's most enduring villains given to us by someone who was once an unquestioned master of horror cinema.

So it should be great, right? Something any self respecting horror fan should be gasping to see, right?


Well, first thing to say is that I didn't see Dario Argento's Dracula in 3D. Thank God!

Second thing to say is that, sadly, Dario Argento's Dracula 3D is a laughably terrible adaptation of Stoker's classic tale with, I'd imagine, the only worthwhile 3D in it being the extra dimensions added to the luscious Italian ladies of the cast who somehow ended up in this utter tosh. Okay, so the effortlessly sexy Asia Argento couldn't really say no to her role what with her legendary dad being co-writer and director. But what excuse for the rest? Judging by the cheap and shoddy production values it doesn't look as if the ladies could have made any money out of it. So, the lure of working for the (once) great man maybe?

That greatness has long since gone.

Argento's take on Drac comes across as something of a bastard offspring of Hammer's fun 50's romp Horror of Dracula mixed with elements of Coppola's awesome 1992 version. The entirety of the story takes place in the same small Eastern European town ala Horror, and it has a reincarnated love interest thing going on, as in Coppola's film. The only notable additions to the myth here is that the village elders seem to have entered in to a secret Faustian pact with Drac (Thomas Kretschmann with his scary side parting, looking and sounding like a cranky bank manager). It's a pact that sees the town get money and status out of Dracula's presence while Drac gets to suck on a few of its young lovelies in return. In to this comes librarian Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde – uncomfortable and wooden), employed by the Count to take stock of his castle's huge and dusty old library. Though this job offer soon turns out to be nothing but a ruse to lure Harker's demure young wife Mina (Marta Gastini - okay in her own petite, doe eyed innocent way) to the remote town seeing as how she bears a striking resemblance to Drac's long lost love. Of course, Harker gets vamped by buxom vampire bride Tania (Miriam Giovanelli – charismatically sexy and nicely ferocious) and promptly disappears, leading to Mina coming to town to find him. This also gives young Mina the opportunity to meet up with her old friend Lucy (Asia Argento - comatose), a bored local piano teacher who lives at home with daddy still. Not long after, Lucy pegs it due to Drac's suckage, and old codger Van Helsing (a sleepy and bored looking Rutger Hauer) turns up to try and kill Drac who he's been hunting for years. Cue lots of running around in woods, terrible CG effects, casual nudity, casual blood spilling and some of the worst performances ever from actors who should be so much better (Argento, Kretschmann, Hauer). I mean, who on earth casts the gorgeous and effortlessly sexy Asia Argento as a Lucy who is such a dull and boring go nowhere character? Yes, her role in the tale is to get vamped which then spurns our heroes on. But Lucy is supposed to be fun, wild, loving the boys, loving teasing the boys. I can see Asia doing that. I'd love to see Asia doing that. But no, here she is comatose with inaction. And yet daddy Argento still makes her get naked. Just the once mind. Gotta exploit your little girl's two biggest assets at least once per movie I suppose, right Dario?

I have no idea the budget for Dracula 3D but the movie sure looks cheap and is saddled with some of the most laughable CG effects seen in a mainstream film for a good long while. The script is appalling, filled with lines cheesier than a cheese cake made only of cheese, its plotting so haphazard and throwaway you'd think they were just making it all up as they went along. And worst of all, how on earth did the man who gave us the horrifically gorgeous, stylish and atmospheric Suspiria manage to make a film so utterly devoid of any style, atmosphere and tension? Okay, there are a couple of quite nice gore moments and maybe one reasonably effective jump scare. But that's it. The lighting is flat. The sets sparse and cheap. The FX laughable.

The sad truth is Argento couldn't even direct traffic anymore. Just watch how spectacularly he fluffs the staking of Vampire Lucy in her crypt sequence. Remember Coppola's take? Stunningly strange, bloody and genuinely creepy. Forget that here. It's hilarious. Like badly staged panto. No, the only things this movie has going for it is the undoubted sexiness and ferocious charm of Miriam Giovanelli as super hot vampire bride Tanya, giving by far the best performance in the film, and a wonderfully camp operatic rock song over the end credits.

In summation, Dario Argento's Dracula 3D is a bad film. A very bad film. There's no doubt about that. But at least it's not offensively bad in a Uwe Boll kind of way. It's just ultra cheap, cheesy and flatly made. It never makes you angry. In fact, it will probably make you laugh a fair bit. Also it's never boring due to the sheer hilarity of its camp awfulness. Approach it as a camp vampire panto and you might just have some fun. Still, it does make you wonder whatever happened to the man who made horror classics such as Suspiria and Tenebre. Disappointing then to say the least. But, hey, at least it's better than Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000. Ugh! Now that's REAL Dracula suckage for you!