Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Film Review: DRACULA 3D (2012, Dario Argento)

Stars: 1 of 5.
Running Time: 110 minutes.
Tag-line: "ARGENTO'S 3-D"
Notable Cast or Crew: Asia Argento (TRAUMA, SCARLET DIVA, THE LAST MISTRESS), Rutger Hauer (THE HITCHER, BLADE RUNNER), Thomas Kretschmann (DOWNFALL, KING KONG '05), Unax Ugalde (GOYA'S GHOSTS).  Written by Argento, Enrique Cerezo (PHANTOMS, WITCHING AND BITCHING), Stefano Piani, and Antonio Tentori (Fulci's A CAT IN THE BRAIN).  Music by Claudio Simonetti (of Goblin fame).
Best One-liner:  "RAHHHHHHH!"

What to say?  What can one say?  I love you, Dario.  You used to be an artist, man.  An artist, for Chrissakes!  I love you, but you made a bad movie.  Worse-than-THE CARD PLAYER bad.  Worse-than-GIALLO bad.  Worse than bottommost barrel of bottom-of-the-barrel Fulci.  It can't even hold a candle to VAMPIRES: LOS MUERTOS.  I hesitate to even call this thing a movie.  It's more like an inferior Ren Faire filmed for the Hallmark Channel, but with a few reels switched out from a softcore sex movie, and a few others replaced by the gory bits from early first-person-shooters like DOOM or WOLFENSTEIN 3D.  Don't believe me?  See for yourself.  SEE FOR YOURSELF!!!

The corridors of Wolfenstein 3D...


...give way to Hallmark softcore?!


...And in some cases every terrible aspect converges, as seen in this freeze frame where a primitive CGI depiction of a nude woman is flung across the room by the invisible, Force-like rage of Dracula.

Good Lord, how did it come to this?  The lighting in SUSPIRIA is a work of art unto to itself; conversely, not only is this lit like a cheap TV movie, it's absolutely the brightest horror film I've ever seen.  Even the nighttime scenes are harshly illumed by crude floodlights.

I scoured the entire, nearly two-hour runtime of this film, and this is the most artistic screen capture I could find.  Whereas, if you freeze any random frame of DEEP RED or SUSPIRIA, you'll find a work of art worthy of hanging in a gallery.

If the internet is to be believed, this had a budget of nearly $8 million U.S.– how is that possible?  Was it a tax cheat of some kind?  A scenario like THE PRODUCERS?  SPRINGTIME FOR DRACULA?

Poor Asia Argento shows up out of a sense of family obligation in the way that some folks are guilted home for the holidays.

(And if that dress didn't come from a Ren Faire, I'll eat my goddamn shoe!)

Except at your last family get-together, your Dad probably didn't write a gratuitous nude bathing scene for you:

It's kind of spectacular that, just off the top of my head, I can think of three gratuitous nude bathing scenes in which Asia has appeared in her father's films (MOTHER OF TEARS, TRAUMA, and DRACULA 3D). There must be more, since she's essentially naked in everything he does, but my memories of the bathing scenes in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA '98 and THE STENDHAL SYNDROME are not so encyclopedic.  Feel free to footnote this pressing issue in the comment arena.

Regardless, like at any awkward family function, Asia puts on a brave face:

Whew.  She is a real trouper and she deserves better.  That is all.

Dracula himself (Thomas Kretschmann) is awfully disappointing.

If the pun hadn't already been beaten into the dust, I would daresay that their Dracula "sucks."  I could say, he "makes my blood boil."  I might even say he "pounds the last nail into the coffin" that is this movie.  But I won't.
Instead, I'll say he sorta looks like a low-rent Daniel Craig and says things like "RAHHH" all the time.

Sometimes he says "AAAAAAAAH!"

With production value that reminds me of THE ROOM, I have to say this was a major missed opportunity: I think that Tommy Wiseau, with his ambiguous Euro accent and long dark tresses, would have made for a much better Dracula.

And their Harker (Unax Ugalde), don't get me started on their Harker– he makes Keanu Reeves in Coppola's DRACULA '92 look like a pro.  I repeat, their Harker makes Keanu look like a pro.

Rutger Hauer, as Van Helsing, limps in well past the hour-long mark to slay a few vamps.

He knows the score.  He probably didn't, back when he signed the contracts, but by the time he arrived on set and beheld its full indignity, he knew what to do.  "What to do" in this instance being to shamefully phone in his performance.  I don't, I won't, and I can't begrudge him that.

Eventually, he must contemplate the resilience of his 401K while observing Asia Argento wrapped in blobs of CGI fire.


Sure, we can pretend that it didn't happen, but we'd still know in our hearts that it did.

Hell, by the end it looks like this thing gave him PTSD, and this is a guy who survived the Hallmark version of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE.

There, there.  It'll be okay, Rutger. 

But forget Rutger and Asia– it's the CGI that's the true star of this movie.  The true art of this movie, I should say.  Look at this incredible werewolf transformation.  I'd venture to say you've seen nothing quite like it this side of a Nintendo 64 cutscene:



"The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection."  –Michelangelo

"This world is but a canvas to our imagination."  –Henry David Thoreau



"Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable."  –George Bernard Shaw


"Art is the right hand of Nature.  The latter has only given us being, the former has made us men."  –Frederick Schiller

"Rules and models destroy genius and art."  –William Hazlitt

And what's this?  That ain't NOSFERATU's shadow creeping up the stairs:

What form of Dracula could that be...?  It couldn't possibly be a praying mantis, could it?  Because that would be ridiculous.



"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."  –Aristotle

Immediately after that bit with the mantis there, Dracula absconds with Mina, who has just witnessed the madness.  She wonders aloud, "What did I see?"
Dracula replies, "Nothing."  Ah, if only!

And it all ends in a classic fake-out, with the defeated Dracula's ashes rishing into a smoky CGI wolf's head that roars IN OUR FACE.

"The purpose of art is to wash the dust of daily life off of our souls."  –Pablo Picasso

One star.  For old time's sake, Dario.  For the love of the art.

–Sean Gill


2014 HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN


8 comments:

Cannon said...

Confession time: I am doggedly, brainlessly, debasingly obsessed with all things Asia Argento.

I can't help it. I don't want to help it. She brings out the Mr. Hyde in me and...and god save me, I like it.

So what I'm experiencing here from your 1-out-of-5 review is a severe case of cognitive dissonance. I believe you when you say this movie is bad, I really do. But, Asia in yet another nude bath scene? My hands are tied. And it doesn't matter that I can source any one of her countless other bodily displays elsewhere from her resume; those ones aren't this one.

Also, despite both your forewarning and my own better judgment, I'm looking at those praying mantis pics and thinking, "Holy shit! I need to see this!"

Once in a cheaply, TV-lit moon, I'll eat from a shady taco stand. Sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. This movie will be my mystery meat taco.

Sean Gill said...

Cannon,

I'm on the same page re: Asia, and I had also been warned against seeing this film. With the full knowledge that curiosity killed the cat and Bluebeard's wives and everybody else who saw this, etc.– I watched it anyway. And it is worse than you can imagine. But I did laugh quite loudly at a few junctures and sometimes cringed on the behalf of those who deserve better (Rutger, Asia). For those hankering for the "mystery meat taco stand," I say stream it on Netflix, but keep your thumb within easy reach of the fast-forward button. This movie runs almost two hours, but I think you can watch all the best/worst parts and get the gist of it in ten minutes or less.

Francisco Gonzalez said...

Yeah, this one is "I can't believe what I'm watching levels of bad" totally agree. I've totally given up on Argento, the only reason I saw this one was because it was Dracula, and I'll see anything with Dracula. But damn what the hell Argento?

By the way, if you haven't seen the craziness that is Argento's Phantom of the Opera, highly recommend watching it. You'll get more or less the same reaction. Wait no, Dracula is worse.

Sean Gill said...

Francisco,

Yeah, it's been sad to watch the descent. I'd say TRAUMA was the last masterpiece, and SLEEPLESS was probably the last truly "decent" one, though I did get a kick out of his MASTERS OF HORROR episodes. I have seen PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, probably more than a decade ago. I remember it being truly absurd and have toyed with revisiting it for the purposes of a review. I specifically remember three things that pushed it over the edge: 1. Rats, rats, rats, raised by rats! 2. A mode of conveyance that was half-steampunk and half-something from LABYRINTH. and 3. The Phantom himself NOT BEING DISFIGURED. Brilliant. I need to see it again.

John Guedes said...

THE STENDHAL SYNDROME was the last true Argento flick imo, although I do recall at least tolerating PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and SLEEPLESS. I never bothered to watch anything after that based on reviews that I read.

That being said, I'm not the least bit surprised by your one star review. Funny coincidence though, I've been getting back into Argento this past week. It started with my new DEEP RED Blu-ray and followed up by my old Anchor Bay DVD of INFERNO.

The wind POV shot in INFERNO made me think of your reviews, which prompted me to check the blog today and blammo! an Argento review!!

Sean Gill said...

John,

Heh– I'm glad that when you think bizarre Argento POV shots, you think of this site– thank you! I've obviously stayed current with the Argento output and survived, though I'm not sure I'd recommend it. I also see he's crowdfunding a new project called THE SANDMAN, with Iggy Pop (?!).

Anyway, there's no discounting that in his heyday he couldn't be touched– that string of DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA, INFERNO, TENEBRE, PHENOMENA, OPERA, TWO EVIL EYES, and TRAUMA is possibly the greatest horror streak of all time (though Cronenberg's run from THE BROOD through NAKED LUNCH and Romero's from MARTIN through THE DARK HALF are contenders, too, depending on your definition). But I can always crack out SUSPIRIA or TENEBRE or DEEP RED and be taken aback by the sheer artistry.

J.D. Lafrance said...

Wow. This looks REALLY bad. I have to say, though, I quite enjoyed MOTHER OF TEARS for its batshit crazy, go-for-broke vibe.

Sean Gill said...

J.D.,

Agreed on MOTHER OF TEARS. What it lacks in dignity, it makes up for in (intentional? unintentional?) hilarity. I mean, Asia Argento kills the Mother of Tears by disrobing her with a spear. You can't make that stuff up. Whereas DRACULA 3D is just painfully, uncomfortably bad. There are a few good laughs, but mostly you feel embarrassed.