Review: Dario Argento's DRACULA 3D Is Predictably Bad, Until...

Brian Clark, European Editor
Early warning: This review will eventually spoil what was -- for me -- the only great minute of Dario Argento's Dracula 3D. It is not a plot spoiler per say, and it was also spoiled by the sales reel that showed up online a couple years ago, but it is the only moment that made me sit up in my seat and say, "What on earth...?" But, I'll put a warning before I do that, so relax for now.

Other than this minute, there's not much to say about the former horror maestro's first foray into stereoscopic 3-D. Art and experience has shown in many ways that we are born an infant who needs to be taken care of, we mature, and then as our mental and physical faculties dull, we regress back to something like an infantile state in old age. Perhaps that explains why 71-year-old Argento has churned out so many puzzling, tone-deaf misfires during his late-era career.

But nearly every critic and cinephile has scratched their heads and hazarded guesses as to why the horror master who brought us elegant, stylish classics like Suspiria and Deep Red has become such a shadow of his former self. I'll let it drop. Whatever the case, based on Dracula 3D, with its overlit mastershots, lifeless acting and anemic energy, no one should count on another masterpiece in the near future.

And so, you must decide whether you want to settle instead for the small pleasures that the man continues to offer. These include: Some giggle-inducing Ed Wood-type moments, an extremely earnest performance by Rutger Hauer during the last third of the movie, a fair amount of gruesome CGI gore and a number of naked ladies with beautiful bodies. I suppose the fact that one of these ladies is the director's daughter, Asia Argento, might make some feel more creeped out than turned on. Prudes!

Just kidding, you guys are all fine in my book. In any case, the plot is basically a plodding version of the story you've seen or read a thousand times before with a few kinda hilarious visual moments courtesy of Dracula's ability to teleport around a room. The sets look like leftovers from an episode of masterpiece theater and, as noted, the acting is all completely wooden.

Still, unless you are still reeling about the old news that Argento isn't going to make something that even approaches the level of Opera in the near future, the movie's not much of a chore to sit through, and it's even a bit agreeable and amusing in a juvenile way, though never more than that.  It is also in 3-D, but that doesn't really help or hurt matters. 

Now, here comes that spoiler. 

The only thing about the movie that seems to genuinely excite Argento (besides boobs) is the fact that his Dracula has the ability to shapeshift into any animal he wants. He turns into an owl, a wolf and at one point... wait for it... A GIANT CGI PREYING MANTIS!

This mantis thing comes out of FUCKING NOWHERE and he is HUGE. Sure, he looks fake and only attacks one person before disappearing forever, but still, when did you last see a movie about a character who turned into a giant killer mantis?

And here is where I must implore that whoever is putting up the money for Argento's movies to please insist that he explore this preying mantis transformation further. Suddenly none of the acting, the cheap production value or the overlit HD photography will be such a big deal, because the entire story will focus on some guy who turns into a giant mantis and eats people's heads! There is an audience for this!

Also, based on the fact that it's the only scene in the movie that reaches the level of inspired campiness for which one would hope, I think it's safe to assume that Argento's real interest lies not in retreads of old vampire stories, but in giant, man-eating insects. Maybe get SyFy channel on the phone and see if they'll kick in some money for the premiere rights.

In any case, Die-hard fans of so-bad-they're-good movies might have a good time here (especially if they front-load a bit), and it's hard to imagine anyone with their expectations in check getting actually angry about the movie... but ultimately, the best reason I can give to see Dario Argento's Dracula 3D is that giant mantis. Would that he were the star.

Dracula 3D opens October 4 at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles and the IFC Film Center in New York. It will also be available on VOD. 
Around the Internet:
  • Art Vandelay

    I thought this movie was hilarious, so it wasn't a total loss. But man oh man, how the mighty have fallen. And this is coming from someone who enjoyed "Mother of Tears".

  • milliblog

    Brian, you're clearly yet to see the 1991 film Praying Mantis. It's not an animated version of the creature, though... but it's clearly more interesting than Argento's imagination! Trailer: http://j.mp/15XloXo

  • Dave Baxter

    Ha ha, yeah, maybe Argento should sign up with Syfy to do a slate of original features for them, starting with the Mantis concept. That could be an inspired pairing - the films won't be any shoddier than what Syfy is already putting out, and they'll have Argento's name and maybe the occasional masterful flourish to boot!

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​