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Asia Argento as Lucy, Dracula 3D

Argento’s Dracula 3D
directed by Dario Argento
IFC Films

The much-anticipated (well, by some) horror/thriller master’s take on Bram Stoker’s done-to-death vampire tale recently screened in Los Angeles and New York; it’s available on VOD as of October 4.

Now look, there have been many, many film adaptations of Dracula, but even with that in mind the thought of the “great” Dario Argento putting his gruesome spin on it raised expectations high, in hindsight unreasonably high. Watching this version in mostly pointless 3D and soaking in its relatively high-grade superficial treats –– sumptuous photography amid dark forests, crumbly castles, ornately decorated rooms and long dinner tables laden to spilling with food, plus some nice period costumery and many computer-enhanced mechanical wolves ripping nubile flesh –– one might be struck primarily by the thought that, by virtue of his reputation and age, Argento is one of those lucky old men in a position of getting the financing to make films that they want to make and that he’s become either complacent or downright lazy or, more likely, he never did have much to say, come to think of it.

The film stars Thomas Kretschmann as Count Dracula, a tired-looking Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing the fearless vampyr huntyr, Argento’s daughter Asia as Dracula groupie Lucy, who is visited by Mina (Marta Gastini) and Mina’s husband Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) in Transylvania in 1893. The short version here is that Dracula thinks Mina is the reincarnation of his beloved late wife, who died lo these 400 years ago. Lucy and Jonathan are bitten into the fold, and Mina is in serious peril, etc., etc., and then comes Van Helsing to save the day and etc., etc., etc.

Argento’s Dracula 3D is the same old Dracula yarn done with very, very minor twists, and it is just extremely shallow stuff, almost entirely dependent on its production values –– and why yes, I’m aware that it’s laughable that anyone might seek something under the surface in a Dario Argento film. There simply isn’t much in the way of innovation when it comes to his handling of the story, indeed this is a remarkably standard take on it, and the dialogue (co-written by Argento with a few other collaborators) is stiff and flat, which could mean there was a problem in translation for subtitling or perhaps the film’s international cast being voiced-over –– aw, forget it. It’s just flat.

No, Argento’s fans don’t quite come for the Shakespeare; blood and boobs and barbarian badness is what you want, and you get a lot of that in Dracula 3D. The actors are adequate, for the most part, though Hauer’s obviously just going through the motions to get paid; by far the most interesting thing about this film is the bold face and subtly smirky detachment of Asia Argento, who brings whatever deeply buried dark comedy there might be to this disappointing thing.
–– John Payne

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