Monday, February 10, 2014 3D! And he still sucks!

I have a confession to make. I have never been a major fan of Dario Argento's work. Please, do not get me wrong. I understand and appreciate his contributions to horror cinema. I even enjoy some of his movies, namely Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Trauma. Without a doubt, he is a master of the horrific, bloody set pieces by which most of his film are anchored. His work has spawned a legacy of filmmakers inspired by the innovations he crafted.

Now we have an icon tackling a piece of classic (and iconic) literature. 

Purists out there, please exit now. Stoker is in his grave screaming, "Who befouled my good name?" Well, Bram, ignoring all of the other times your work has been abused, we can shake a crucifix at Mister Argento this time. Of course, he had a few other writers helping him, like some wild pre-sweetened-cereal-overdose, finger-painting mishap in a daycare center with no supervision.

Everything takes place in the general area of Dracula's castle, so no White Cliffs of Dover for you England fans. Apparently in these tough economic times, even Dracula has to scale back his ambitions. Harker is now a librarian who has taken on the job of cataloging the Count's library. Mina is his meek wife who follows him into Dracula's realm. Lucy is now the daughter of the town's mayor, who, along with other officials and upstanding citizens in the town, has snuggled up to the Count in an arrangement not unlike a Mafia scheme. Renfield is utterly confused as he is defending the honor of a poor girl killed by Dracula in one scene and a whimpering pet of Dracula in another.

Characters seem to be completely oblivious to Dracula's grip on the city, yet everyone seems to know he is using the town as his personal blood bank. The Count is slowly milking Lucy dry, but to what purpose? Other than a nod to the novel and another excuse for Argento to show his daughter, Asia, naked in one of his movies, the movie fails to give a reasonable answer. Other characters clearly are aware that creepy stuff is happening all around them, yet they brush it off.

The only person in the whole movie who actually comes out okay is Van Helsing, played with very solid understatement by Rutger Hauer. He plays Helsing as a man obsessed with rooting out evil. If people die while under his watch, so be it, as long as he is able to stop the vampires.

If the story and characters are not off-putting enough, you then have to deal with the constant sexual undertones and eye-rolling orgasmic looks of victims whenever a vampire touches them. If the whole thing had been a hair sleazier, it could have passed itself off as an homage to Jess Franco's cinematic stylings. Minus the zooming camera work.

Another item that seems to smack of minimal budget is the constant CGI work in the film instead of the good old makeup work that made Argento's earlier films so gruesomely fun. In fact, the effects range from so-so to "Are you fucking kidding me? My 5-year-old nephew could do better CGI!". However, thanks to the cheesy CGI, Argento and crew brought us one of the single most jaw-droppingly hilarious WTF? moments ever committed to film. I don't want to ruin it, but I will warn you that it involves a praying mantis the size of a mutant grizzly. Go find it on Youtube and spare yourself 2 hours.

It may seem that I am spreading the hate rather thick on this movie. I mean, it really is a rather sad thing. Yet, it has two things working in its favor. The first is that it does turn its back on the super-sexy vampires who belong on fashion magazines. Not one of these critters sparkle or have much on their minds other than feeding. The second thing is that this film has all the characteristics to become a cult favorite in the "It's so bad, but I can't stop laughing at it" category. Not something you want to see a former great director churn out, but it is better to be laughed at than ignored. Maybe. Yeah, I'll stick with that theory.

By the way, this thing is in 3D, so if you must wallow in this thing AND you have a 3D capable TV and Blu-Ray player, watch it in 3D. It makes the praying mantis scene funnier. So much funnier. I am not responsible for anyone who wets themselves laughing.

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