Nine More Nights of Argento #9 – “Dracula 3D” (2012)

dracLast October, I saw the first nine films directed by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. With the spooky season upon us again, I’ve decided to check out the back-half of Argento’s filmography, from 1990’s George A. Romero team-up Two Evil Eyes to 2012’s notorious flop Dracula 3D.

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I loved every minute of Dracula 3D.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a terrible, terrible movie. In fact, it barely qualifies as a “movie” as I understand the definition. For starters, the storyline seems to be based less on Bram Stoker‘s novel and more on Dario Argento’s loose recollection of the Francis Ford Coppola version from 20 years ago. The production values hover somewhere between an episode of Goosebumps and hardcore pornography. The CGI is slightly worse than the flying meatballs in 1997’s made-for-TV adaptation of Stephen King‘s The Langoliers, while composer Claudio Simonetti‘s theremin-heavy score is reminiscent of a Simpsons Halloween special. The best performances in the film come from an apparently drunk Rutger Hauer and Asia Argento‘s boobs.

In other words, for sheer entertainment value, there is much to appreciate here. It’s been a few years since I read Stoker’s classic tale of an undead Eastern European land owner’s ill-fated attempt to woo his real estate agent’s wife, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t include a scene where the titular character turned into a gigantic praying mantis and killed a fat guy. In this regard, the score is Argento 1, Stoker nil.

Our epic tale begins as the film’s haphazard iMovie opening titles roll over a computer game cutscene which serves to sweep us though the night and into the woodsy hamlet of Passo Borgo. In a cabin set that resembles a regional theater production of The Ghost of Canterville Hall, we meet Tania (Miriam Giovanelli), who has a weirdly explicit sex scene in the light of an unmotivated spotlight and then is promptly attacked by a CGI owl.

From there, we vaguely follow the original novel as Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) arrives on the scene via CGI train to do business with Count Dracula (Stendhal Syndrome‘s Thomas Kretschmann). Argento’s interpretation of the famous vampire can morph into virtually anything (swarms of flies, wolves, owls, preying mantises) and does so in some of the most beautifully awful CGI I’ve seen in some time. Dracula makes short work of Harker, moving on to vamp out on the Mayor’s daughter Lucy (Asia Argento) and Harker’s wife (Marta Gastini). Globs of gore and gratuitous nudity abound.

An hour and twelve minutes into the film, Rutger Hauer shuffles into frame like a geriatric deus ex machina. He… tells… us… very slowly… that he… is… Van Helsing. Hauer portrays the legendary vampire killer as a kind of lethargic badass who stumbles into vampires, killing them accidentally on his way to find a couch to crash on. Hauer seems so very, very tired, and yet he is easily one of the stronger elements of the film.

On this, the final night of Nine More Nights of Argento, I refuse to be disheartened by what many consider to be the tragic decline of a former horror master. As I’ve stated before, I believe Argento’s output has never been consistently good or consistently bad. His worst film remains 1971’s Cat O’ Nine Tails, a film so dramatically inert that it makes the online poker sequences in The Card Player look like Casino Royale. There are those of you out there who bemoan this modern age of Argento films, filled with awkward CGI, awful dialogue, and uncomfortable nude scenes by his daughter. To you I say, embrace the future. This is the new reality.

In closing, I anxiously await Dario Argento’s Frankenstein 3D, which I predict will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 and will star Adrien Brody as both Dr. Frankenstein and the monster, featuring Asia Argento as an inexplicably naked Bride of Frankenstein. Julian Sands will voice a CGI lobster which will appear late in the third act for reasons unknown.

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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features, Reviews

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  1. 18 Nights of Dario Argento Films (1970 – 2012) | Filmbalaya.com - November 2, 2014

    […] View all posts by Adam Cuttler → ← Nine More Nights of Argento #9 – “Dracula 3D” (2012) […]

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