Dracula 3-D,
directed by Dario Argento
(Sony Screen Gems, 2013)

I will say up front that the godfather of horror, Dario Argento, can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't stop me from stating emphatically that this movie is pretty much for hardcore fans like me who find something fascinating in everything Argento does. It isn't the rich feast of his earlier work, nor does it have a sense of humor that might have made fans feel easier about the state of Argento's vision. Which, as far as I am concerned, remains intact but out of tune.

The theremin-haunted spooky score and the gothic lettering in the opening credits do not bode well. There's a strong sense of low budgeting and corner-cutting that obviously hamstrung the production.

Argento's specialty, which is creating a visual feast of composition, is missing in this set-bound narrative, which has no angles, no tracking shots, nothing visually exciting, with CGI covering the most basic special effects. The sets are charming but the lighting is overdone, almost too intense for the story and a bit hard on the eyes through 3-D glasses. Everything is in clear, distinct focus, so much so that it's hard to choose a spot on which to concentrate, which has a way of just killing off completely any gothic feel to the story.

It's also very static, moving between a house and a jail and the castle of Dracula nearly endlessly, with a few shots of forest and mountain here and there. I think Argento was trying for a confined, claustrophobic feeling, but the feeling is one of jumping from one set-piece to the next as opposed to a smooth, progressive narrative.

The dialogue is clunky and downright awful in places, and Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing is the only real diversion from what can only be described as soap-opera style, "playing to the cameras" acting. It's a real shame, because I found Thomas Kretchmann's portrayal of Dracula to be the best of all the ones I've seen since the original. He has a fine sense of menace and a way of delivering his lines with veiled amusement, but it's wasted in this colorful yet sadly arid film; in an interesting twist, Kretchmann is Van Helsing to Jonathan Rhys' Dracula in the cable TV series, so that's something.

More labored than a labor of love, more hurried than immersive, this is not Argento's best nor is it a worthy addition to the Dracula oeuvre.

review by
Mary Harvey

18 January 2014

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new