Retro Review: ARGENTO’S DRACULA 3D (2012){0}

One does not walk lightly into a criticism of Italian filmmaker Dario Argento. The lovable auteur behind horror classics like Deep Red, Suspiria, and Tenebre, Mr. Argento is inarguably one of the most influential genre filmmakers imaginable. Yes, right up there with Romero, Craven, and Carpenter. So even when the man turns out a bad movie, there should always be a degree of respect.

Having said all that, I don’t know what the hell was in Dario Argento’s head as he directed this hilariously woeful rendition of Bram Stoker’s immortal novel. It almost feels like Argento, who used to direct smart, subversive horror films, is playing a game in which he sees how close to an Uwe Boll movie he can get. It’s difficult to get angry at a man who has given us so many excellent horror films, but make no mistake: this is one seriously bad rendition of Dracula.

Borrowing the time period and a few character names from the source material, Argento goes about cobbling together a typically dry narrative about noble idiots and nubile women who slowly (ever so slowly) fall prey to Thomas Kretschmann’s patently un-scary version of Count Dracula. But technological “advances” have turned a potentially amusing B movie into an eyesore, a headache, and a chore.

Scenes are harrowingly overlit; many of the actors give line readings that border on indecipherable, and the muddy voice dubbing certainly doesn’t help; and the special effects may have been more charming back in 1981. I’ll take latex masks and rubber bats over transparent computer animation any day.

But wait. Dario Argento is clearly a talented filmmaker (and by all accounts a very intelligent man), so maybe his oddball 3D version of Dracula is actually broad, silly, and goofy… on purpose? Like maybe it’s a very sly satire of the remake cycle and the virtually immortal status of Dracula’s filmography? That’d be nice if the film was anything but amateurish and drearily boring; the few moments that are legitimately, intentionally snarky are buried beneath endless scenes of glaring lights, awful wigs, atrocious accents, and completely clueless performances.

Whether Mr. Argento meant this to be A) serious, B) silly, or C) a combination of both, the end result is, I’m sorry to say, almost completely unwatchable.