The story: Jonathan Harker travels to...you know what, I don't think this part is necessary, it's fucking Dracula. See Tod Browning's Dracula, John Badham's Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, etc. We've seen this dozens of times now, it's the same basic story with the same basic characters. Only much, much worse this time.
Aside from Sleepless I haven't really enjoyed an Argento film in some time. Not since Opera way back in 1987? Granted I haven't seen all of his recent stuff like Giallo or The Card Player, so maybe those are decent, but ever since Phantom of the Opera I've been really reluctant to give a lot of his current films a chance. I think I first saw the trailer for this about a year ago. Once I saw the huge CGI praying mantis in the trailer I knew two things; 1) this was going to suck and 2) I was going to have to check it out the second I had a chance.
Dario Argento's attempt at a 3D Dracula film is kind of a mess. It features awkward acting, stilted dialog, cheap production design and truly awful CGI. There's really just an overall air of stupidity about the whole production. That said this is not quite as awful as I'd heard. Don't get me wrong, it blows, just not as hard as I thought it would after seeing the trailer and reading some early reviews.
First of all, I don't know if it's just Italian and Spanish actors having trouble with badly written English dialogue or even shittier than usual dubbing, but the acting was almost uniformly awful. Asia is especially awkward, and she's usually fine as an actress. Thomas Kretschmann isn't terrible, but his Dracula looks like 70's Hugh Hefner with a better haircut and Thomas whispers his lines the entire movie. Every single one of them, even when he's yelling. He is fairly intimidating in a few of his more evil moments, but there really aren't many scenes with him being truly evil. Rutger Hauer is solid as Van Helsing, but of course, Rutger is pretty much always good. He does seem a bit embarrassed to be there at times, like he signed on to do the film then saw what they had already shot and realized what he had gotten himself into.
Then there's the special effects. Good lord, the special effects. Okay, some of the gore shots are pretty well done, but this film has some of the worst CGI I've ever witnessed. There's a wolf-into-Dracula transformation scene that is stunningly bad. The movie The Langoliers would've laughed at this effect. When the trailer first hit I think the part of the trailer that really stuck out for everyone was a quick shot of a really silly CGI praying mantis. I had hoped that was a weird joke, but nope, it's in the movie. What was even worse about the CGI mantis was that the scene served no purpose. Dracula morphs into this mantis to kill Lucy's father and kidnap Mina, but why? To hide his identity? He kills the only witness so why would have have to hide his identity? And it's not like he needed to turn into a beast to kill someone, he could do that just as easily in vampire form. Easier in fact, it can't be easy to walk up stairs as a giant praying mantis. Have you ever seen those things move? It's one of the most awkward creatures on the planet. They move very unnaturally, every move carefully thought out, ready to topple over after every step because their bodies are so poorly shaped. I don't care how good your praying mantis effects are, there is no way for that scene to not be stupid. Don't they do test screenings with movies? If you screen a movie and a scary scene in your movie makes people laugh so hard they nearly choke to death on their popcorn, wouldn't you think that you should lose that scene?
A bit unrelated, but here's something that's always bugged me about vampire movies. When the vampire turns into a bat (or a wolf or a, uh, praying mantis), what the fuck happens to their clothes? The vampire is fully dressed, then they turn into a bat but it's not like the bat is flying around wearing a little suit, it's just a regular naked bat. Then when they turn back into vampires they are suddenly fully dressed again. Where do their goddamn clothes go while they're bats?
Anyway, not everything about Argento's Dracula is going to make you want to slit your wrists. There are a few nice touches that show Dario hasn't completely lost his mind. The stalking scene leading up that the first Drac Attack is pretty effective, but that's ruined by an awful CG owl (the naked owl of course then turns into a fully dressed Dracula). There's a great eerie dream sequence with a wolf eating Lucy's guts about 53 minutes in that's well shot and even a bit disturbing. Claudio Simonetti's music is pretty servicable, even excellent on couple of occasions - check out the music in the scene with Helsing making bullets for example. Bonus points for the theremin. There's also a cheesy Nightwish-ish song during the credits called Kiss Me Dracula that's really catchy. It does feel really out of place after the ass end of a Dracula movie though.
In the end, the only people I can think of that would be interested in watching this would Argento completists, but I think most Argento fans will just be saddened to see how far the once brilliant director has fallen. If you have to see this one, be sure to wait and see it cheap. Also, being drunk while viewing wouldn't hurt. Those who still need to see this as soon as possible, the Italians have a 2D/3D Blu-ray coming out March 27th, you can buy it here.
Miriam Giovanelli is so, so hot. And completely naked on more than one occasion. There's also Asia Argento who is nude during an awkward bath scene. Am I the only one creeped out by Dario filming his daughter naked? Again. Asia is a pretty chick and I'm all for seeing her as naked as possible, but knowing
that her Dad is on the other side of the camera directing the scene creeps me right the hell out. It's not really pervy lingering nudity, but it certainly wasn't essential to be shown.
Head split by a shovel, an axe murder, a few throat slashings, a decapitation, and a cool slow motion suicide where we see the bullet enter the mouth from below the chin. This one kind of reminded me of Daria Nicolodi's death in Opera. The gore isn't too graphic, but there are a lot of gruesome, bloody death scenes.
Things to watch for
Miriam Giovanelli naked
The vamped out Lucy attack on Van Helsing is truly hysterical, I had tears streaming down my face.
Miriam Giovanelli naked, again
Check out the video for Claudio Simonetti's Kiss Me Dracula: