Dario Argento's Dracula 3D Movie Review
Written by Kelly Michael Stewart
Released by IFC Midnight
Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani and Antonio Tentori. Based on the book by Bram Stoker
2012, 111 minutes, Rated R
Released on October 14th, 2013
Thomas Kretschmann as Dracula
Marta Gastini as Mina Harker
Asia Argento as Lucy Kisslinger
Unax Ugalde as Jonathan Harker
Miriam Giovanelli as Tania
Rutger Hauer as Abraham Van Helsing
You know you are in trouble in a Dracula film when you hear the famous line from the Count say, "Wolves, children of the night. What music they make," just after Jonathan Harker has shown up at Dracula's castle in complete daylight. This botched scene is the best example of the mess that is Dario Argento's Dracula 3D (in select theaters and on VOD beginning October 4th, 2013).
Let's face it; the wolves have been out for Argento for years after making a succession of disappointing films such as Giallo (2009) and The Mother of Tears (2007). This writer didn't actually mind Giallo and was looking forward to seeing what Argento could do with this classic gothic mythology. So it was to my profound disappointment that rather than revitalizing himself and this story, it feels like a tired cash grab from beginning to end.
It is a pointless exercise to take on something like Dracula that has been done so many times before unless you can bring something new to the table. A new angle on the story, a twist, an update in the mythos or simply just injecting a filmmakers own personal flare is critical for drawing on one of the most retold stories of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, Dario Argento's Dracula 3D misses these benchmarks at almost every juncture.
This version of Dracula is pretty much what you've seen before but with no sense of purpose. Despite the film having four different screenwriters, the basic storyline is confusing and characters tend to drift through the screen without emotion, reason or logic.
Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong) as Dracula plays a very restrainted performance but certainly doesn't bring anything particularly memorable. If the intention was to make him charming and suave to seduce Mina and Lucy, then it fails completely. Rutger Hauer (Hobo with a Shotgun) plays Van Helsing, but he doesn't show up until the last half hour of the film, is completely underused, and it doesn't help he appears to be tired and confused for most of it. Hauer plays it soft spoken and says the usual vampire jiberish to Mina about how you kill a vampire, but really doesn't bring much more to the part.
As usual, Dario Argento doesn't shy away from bringing some sex appeal with the female leads Marta Gastina (Mina), Asia Argento (Lucy) and especially Miriam Giovanelli (Tania). Their performances are adequate but can only go so far with such a limited script. Even at Argento's best with Suspiria and Deep Red, he was always more about style over substance. In those classic films, the dialogue and the acting were always a little wooden. So really the level of performances and dialogue is pretty much what you would expect, knowing his filmography.
One of the few redeaming qualities of the movie is by longtime musical collaborator Claudio Simonetti (Suspiria, Opera), returning to working with Argento to do a haunting and elegant score. Don't expect him breaking any new ground, but Simonetti gives a classic sound of his best work in years. Without question, these compositions are the glowing amber in an otherwise cold production.
The most baffling part of this opus is the shoddy cinematography by Luciano Tovoli. It is hard to believe this was done by the same man who shot Antonioni's The Passenger. Almost every shot in the film is far too bright. I suspect this was somewhat because they were trying to make up for the darkness created by the 3D glasses, but there is no excuse for it to look this bad. There is no sense of atmopshere or creative flair. Coming for from the director Suspiria, you'd think this movie would be caked in interesting and moody lighting, but it's lit and shot like a TV production at times. Night scenes are overdone with huge studio lights coming from every direction that couldn't possibly be anything close to real moonlight and the daytime scenes looks like they were shot at high noon in the middle of July. It should be noted that the version provided to us for review is in regular 2D, so I can't comment on the overall quality of the 3D version.
Dario Argento's Dracula 3D is a disappointing entry by one of the most important Italian directors of horror and giallo films. Let's just hope it isn't the final nail in the coffin of what was once an important and influential career.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.