October 23rd, 2014
|10:35 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Dario Argento's Dracula 3D|
Dario Argento is one of cinema's greatest impostors. Back in the '60s and '70s he was a major name in the world of giallo films, and he made a few genuinely brilliant and groundbreaking movies (Susperia, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage...), but the fact is that most of his movies are nothing special. Horror fans continue to see and enjoy them, but taken as a whole, his body of work really isn't very good.
I've never really figured out whether I care about that sort of thing or not. A lot of great artists produce a small handful of important works, and spend the rest of their time repeating themselves, and on the whole we're okay with that.
Dracula 3D--also being marketed as Dario Argento's Dracula--is one of Argento's lesser works. I can't remember how I first became aware of it (possibly this post from io9.com), but it seemed from the get-go that the movie wasn't going to get a fair shake from anyone. When the movie came out, it got lost in the shuffle and I forgot about it until it showed up on Netflix, which is a bad sign: a good movie would have generated some buzz.
And in fact, Argento's Dracula is worth all the bad press. What a disappointment! This is the worst kind of bad movie: bland, boring, and not much fun. This is not really Bram Stoker's story, but an adaptation that happens to include a lot of the important elements. Hammer Studios did a similar thing with the movies that made Christopher Lee famous, but those, overall, were much better movies.
This film is assembled from the same components as the Hammer films (gore and cleavage, mostly), but it feels so empty. Everything about the film's execution feels like a television soap opera from the '90s, which is not helped by the fact that the actors are French, Italian, and Spanish, who have the ability to woodenly deliver English dialogue, but may not understand what they're actually saying. Even Rutger Hauer, who shows up rather late as Abraham Van Helsing does nothing to breathe any life* into the movie. Hauer, in fact, is especially inferior. He sleepwalks* through his performance, and seems to be putting forth just enough effort to avoid having to retake each scene.
I think Hauer's performance here is poor. Everyone else... I don't know. Maybe they suck* and maybe it's just the poor overall presentation of the movie. Even the CGI, which, frankly, should be top notch, even in a cheap production like this one, looks unbelievably bad, as if they put together an effects demonstration for Argento's approval, and he said "screw it! She's-a good enough-a!" This is a movie that played in American multiplexes, and I can't remember seeing anything in a theater that looked this slapdash. It looks and feels much cheaper than the $7.7 million budget on which it was made.
Oh, and apparently this movie was released in 3D, which I must have known when I saw the original trailer, but had since forgotten. I cannot imagine that 3D would mask the awfulness of this film. It's so unfortunate. Argento is capable of style and grace, and he's capable of over-the-top thrills, but his Dracula is a lukewarm mess, and no amount of exposed breasts or candy-colored gore or Dracula-turning-into-a-praying-mantis can save it from being dull. I wanted to see this movie, and I wanted it to be good, but it's just garbage. This is the worst Argento film I've ever seen, and is miles worse than his second worst movie--whatever it is. I can only classify this as a horrendous misstep.
Here's that trailer everyone was complaining about.
* In the spirit of this movie, I have allowed myself to miss several opportunities for vampire jokes.