Finally it appears that the lamentable fad of romanticizing the deadly stars of the monster movies that defined horror in our youth. Back the then creature features had humans the thing determined to eradicate us as painfully as possible. Then vampires and werewolves became the amorous objects of young girl’s fantasies in a trend that has infiltrated all expressions of modern entertainment. Thankfully in recent years there has been a backlash movement instigated by filmmakers dedicated to the restoration of traditional horror tropes. While many involved in this reformation are relative new to the genre there are a few old masters revitalizing the type of movie they were instrumental in defining. One Master of Horror who has made a contribution to achieving this is Dario Argento, the Italian filmmaker specializing in the Giallo School of horror. The elements of this methodology of fright are perfect to help modern audiences become re-accustomed to how a scary story should be told. The result is under consideration here, ‘Dracula 3D’. Now, the utilization of 3D has been around for half a century with many examples of horror listed among its best. Although this excursion into the illusion of depth as an adjunct to horror is far from the best nor is it even among the top films of Argent’s extensive oeuvre it does represent horror the way it should be seen. The Giallo School of horror combines the thrillers of old paperback novels that typically fall into the murder mystery vein infused with erotic elements. The setting are frequently in the past utilizing the highly stylistic trappings employing elegance and grandeur not often found in modern times. The overtly sexualized themes were too much for the American cinematic watchdogs of the fifties, a factor that waned but remained a factor into the seventies. While not the best horror film it does take the seasoned fan back to when a Friday night horror movie achieved its goal; providing a fright with a touch of old world style.
The location chosen for the story is classic, a town nestled at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. It is the night of the annual spring festival and true to form a pair of young lovers, Tania (Miriam Giovanelli) and Milos (Christian Burruano), are having a clandestine affair. After their meeting Tania is stalked and overtaken by a mysterious dark figure. During the following days a young librarian, Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) has arrived for a new job, employed by the enigmatic Count Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann). In a movie like this killing off a character doesn’t necessarily sweep them off the board. Like a pawn making to the other end of the board it can offer the opportunity to increase in power. Tania’s body is missing from the grave reappearing at the Dracula’s Castle, now transformed into a vampire. In this form of vampire film the undead might not be the romantic leads but that doesn’t preclude emitting a serious amount of sensuality. Baby Vamp Tania is there to greet Harker. Her attempts to seduce him are abruptly interrupted by the grand entrance of Count Dracula. Tania is persistent sneaking into his chamber that night for a little bite but once again halted by her sire. Thus far vampirism has been a rather frustrating time for Tania. Dracula however does manage a bite. Although he survived that encounter he is brutally killed by a wolf once he manages to stagger outside. Harker’s widow, Mina (Marta Gastini) arrives at the castle and is instantly mesmerized by the charismatic Count. It turns out that Mina is the doppelganger of Dracula’s century’s long dead wife, Dolinger Mina’s best friend, Lucy Kisslinger (Asia Argento), offers Mina a place to stay while she sorts thins out. Even though Lucy is played by the filmmaker’s daughter and traditionally survives his movies, Lucy is dispatched quickly. In this variation of the Bram Stoker literary classic characters that normally have significant contribution here they are utilized to systematically isolate Mina from her former life making her more dependent on Dracula’s increasing influence.
The evil overtones of the recent lethal events come to the attention of the renowned vampire huntsman, Abraham Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer). The remaining tale unfolds as you might expect with both sides scoring against their opponent until the fully expected dénouement is finally reached. Say what you might with regard to the predictability of the movie Dario Argento earned his place among the elite filmmakers of horror mostly through his distinctive style. There is something about an Argento period piece that is intrinsically worth watching. At least it is better than watching yet another flick where the human in the grasp of the monster possesses a look of terror instead of that sappy school girl gaze of adoration that has lately dominated the genre. Torture and romance have overwhelmed horror films too long so even a less than tightly made movie by Mr. Agrigento using traditional means is a welcome relief.
This is Mr. Agrigento’s first foray in to the use of modern Real 3D and its degree of effectiveness is at best, mixed. While the elaborately detailed costumes, set and locations should have provided a rich palate to infuse with depth Argento is not able to take full advantage of its potential. The use of shadow, usually a trademark feature of his work, is sacrificed in order to highlight the solidity of the object casting it. Although the overused standard of cylindrical objects thrusting out of the plane on the viewer is thankfully kept to a minimum his overall use of the technology is insufficient to distinguish itself from a score of ‘B’ 3D movies. Rutger Hauer has portrayed his share of vampires in both dramatic and comical movies so it was interesting to watch him on the other end of the wooden stake. Unfortunately Argento was unable to cultivate performances from Hauer and his cast mates we all know they are capable of giving. This outing of the Dracula legend is reminiscent of the old Hammer Studio movies that captivated us years ago but devoid of the sense of fun that pervaded them. Those movies were typically low budget but highly entertaining, as were most movies crafted by Argento. Stick with the classics.
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