2012 - 110m.
Dario Argento's output in the 70s and 80s had a profound impact on how I looked at the horror genre and I find his slide into mediocrity as he gets older to be a tragedy. Although I didn't hate Dracula 3D as much as his take on The Phantom of the Opera, this movie just made me depressed more than anything else as it felt so mundane. I imagine that Argento loves the story of our favorite Count and wanted to put his own spin on it but this flick comes across as jumbled and boring mess that does not bear the qualities that have defined his work in the past. There is no crazy cinematography, the suspense is almost non-existent, and it feels more like an Asylum film than an Argento film. Even longtime collaborator Claudio Simonetti's score is uninspired. I have no idea how it took four writers to come up with such a weak interpretation of a classic novel. It is also puzzling that this movie was made in 3D when clearly most of the audience (myself included) does not have the means to watch it the way it is intended to be watched. Not that I think it would have made much of a difference.
The movie has a promising opening with a young couple having illicit sex in a farmhouse. The woman, Tanja (Miriam Giovanelli), gets attacked by a computer-generated owl/vampire on her way home and my mood soured rapidly. We are then introduced to Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) who has been hired by a local named Dracula (Thomas Kretchmann) to do some work. Before Harker can get much done, he is seduced by vampire Tanja who proceeds to bite his neck with Drac picking up the leftovers. Harker's wife Mina (Marta Gastini) arrives in town, connects with her old friend Lucy (Asia Argento), and watches Lucy take a bath (another one of the few good moments). Before long, Lucy is bitten by Drac and presumed dead which causes Mina to seek the help of a vampire slayer named Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer). Eventually, Van Helsing and Drac do battle and then it is thankfully over. Too bad for us that this whole exercise takes 110 minutes.
As I was watching this, I kept wondering how some of the scenes made it into the movie. In particular, the many scenes that involve horrible CGI that are some of the worst visual effects I have seen since The Mummy Returns. Surely somebody on this production must have noticed how shitty these effects looked and it astounds me that Argento himself would let this go. There are sequences that look absolutely ridiculous including one moment where Dracula turns into a praying mantis that made me laugh out loud. Other calamities include terrible morphing effects where Dracula turns into various animals, a burning scene, weak opening credits, and vampire death scenes that all look like they were made by an early 90s video game designer that have no place in a film directed by a horror legend. It is sad that Argento does not have the creative clout that he once had because the director I love would never have stood for this and it is continuing to baffle and anger me as to why one of my heroes would let this happen especially when he has Sergio Stivaletti on the set to do effects. Many favorite horror directors are suffering the same fate where they cannot get financed to make the movies they want to make and I get how he may have done this to keep money in the bank but it just seems to me that everyone would be better served by letting the man do what he wants to do and not letting shit effects destroy his artistic vision.
Kretchmann is a decent actor who previous worked with Argento on The Stendhal Syndrome as a memorable villain but he is not a good Dracula. Obviously, I am comparing him to Lugosi, Lee, Langella, Oldman, and the other actors that have portayed the Count and Kretchmann's take just does not work for me. I found Ugalde's portrayal of Harker to also be weak although he is not in the film much. The same goes for Gastini as Mina who is just kind of there. Even Hauer lacks the cool swagger that he usually offers (another mistake). The saving grace is Asia Argento and Giovanelli who duff their duds and bring some presence to their scenes. All in all, this is a generic take on a tale that has been done to death with unnecessary CGI that completely destroys any momentum that is being built by the story. As much as I hate that Dario directed this, nothing can take away from the fact that he directed nine films back in the day that have left a mark on the genre and will always be there no matter what note his career ends on. I would just like to see him blow everyone's mind one more time to make it an even ten. (Josh Pasnak, 1/21/16)
Directed By: Dario Argento.
Written By: Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani, Antonio Tentori.
Starring: Thomas Kretchmann, Marta Gastini, Asia Argento, Rutger Hauer.