Say it ain’t so Dario, say it ain’t so. Once upon a time, I thought the worst thing that could happen to vampires was Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight plight, but since seeing Dracula 3D, I know more threats to the vampire genre lurk in the shadows besides Mormon writers. Sadly, Dario Argento’s latest directorial effort shows no signs of the influential director of old, coming off as a campy SyFy type movie with so many downsides that it’s hard deciding where to start. Mr. Argento, I respect your name and legacy, and acknowledge everything you’ve given to the horror genre, but out of respect to you, if you’re reading this, I sincerely suggest you stop reading right now. It only gets worse – oh, so worse.
Argento’s story about Count Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) starts with young Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) traveling to Transylvania, joining the Count in his castle as a paid librarian. Count Dracula values his vast collection of literature, but appears to be a bit of a messy vampire, as he hires Jonathan to catalogue his entire library. Jonathan gets to work, but patiently awaits the arrival of his wife Mina (Marta Gastini), who is arriving a few days after him. But after people start disappearing and all fingers point to Dracula, the situation heightens, and the man called Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer) is called in to vanquish the shady creature. When the dust settles, who will be left alive, and who will be left…UNDEAD?! Dum, dum, dummmm!
Argento is shooting for a lusty Gothic tale, embracing mythos that believe vampires can transform into any type of animal (yes, they’re basically Animorphs), but this is also where my very first complaint arises – the awful excuses for CGI. If you know me, you know I love my practical effects, but understand that sometimes CGI is needed. What I CANNOT ever forgive is shoddy CGI though, taking every ounce of magic and soul out of a scene, which happens numerous times throughout Dracula 3D. The images are glossy, they stand awkwardly off the screen, their movements are unnatural – it’s like a crappy 90s computer game cut scene. Production couldn’t even be bothered to use real *fake* blood at times, as this strange CGI puddle would just expand unnaturally, seeming lazy and rushed. Such terrible craftsmanship is absolutely unforgivable in the horror genre, and it’s unfortunate to see another film skip the proper time and effort it would have taken for some seriously sensational practical effects. And no, the few lame scenes where they do a super close-up on a dummy as it gets stabbed doesn’t count.
Strike number two comes from the horribly forced acting and scene creation, which felt like I was just watching a bunch of B-Roll clips spliced together that were lying around some dusty editing room floor. There isn’t a shred of genuine chemistry in the whole film, and every actor feels like they’re just trying entirely too hard. Everything is a cliche. Every movement is predictable. Every persona is stale, flat, and wooden. There isn’t an enjoyable performance in the bunch, and it only becomes more unwatchable with equally embarrassing voice dubbing. There were moments where I could physically see a character’s mouth closed, yet I’d still hear a whole sentence plopped right into the scene, from them, turning these people into damn ventriloquists.
And the pacing – again, don’t even get me started! Scenes that are meant to startle appear to be on fast-forward, as Hauer’s Van Helsing character walks into Dracula 3D like a f#cking Terminator robot that can’t be stopped. There’s never an actual fight or struggle that lasts at least two moves, as most tussles end on move one. There’s one specific sequence that had me crying from laughing as Count Dracula sends *someone* to kill Van Helsing, we cut immediately to *someone* descending on Van Helsing, and we watch Van Helsing pick up a pointy cross and just put it in front of him while the vampire lunges – killing it. Apparently vampires aren’t good at…stopping…moving? The whole ordeal took about 20 seconds, and just like that a major character is killed off and never heard from again. In the blink of an eye. Without a struggle or tension. Laughable, poorly planned, and without a shred of meaning. This is how the whole movie feels, as most scenes climax quicker than Dracula in a blood bank.
Dracula 3D becomes unintentionally comical extremely early on, starting out like a softcore porno, and never, ever recovering. Coming from Argento, this is an extreme travesty, as his vampire film isn’t one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen this year, but one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen in numerous years. This is a man known for revolutionizing Italian horror, yet here he is creating something that a college student could have done. There are points where I actually felt like Argento just gave up, going with the most ridiculous idea possible in hopes that we might laugh at the campy nature (Praying Mantis?), but honestly, I just felt sad for Dracula 3D. Nothing works, horror fails, and Dario Argento absolutely misses his mark on re-inventing a genre in need of a good blood sucking.