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Overall Rating
4.14

Awesome: 14.29%
Worth A Look85.71%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 1 rating


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Argento's Dracula
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Oh, why the hell not."
4 stars

Most of the people shaking their heads sadly over Dario Argentoís "Dracula" donít seem to know what heís up to.

Anyone whoís seen Euro-horror of the í60s and í70s, particularly by Jean Rollin or Jesķs Franco, or Blood for Dracula or Flesh for Frankenstein or even some of the classic Hammer films, will go into this affectionate homage with a receptive state of mind. Argentoís Dracula does reflect some of the foibles of the above movies ó it has its cheesy parts, its dull stretches, its incomprehensible moments. But then thatís Argento, too. The world-renowned maestro of such works as Suspiria and Profondo Rosso pretty much always left logic bleeding in the dust. He cares more about mood, music, the crescendo of violence, the rich sanguinary history of art. Heís going to make Dracula and amuse himself doing it and he doesnít give a damn whether you think itís the 2013 definition of cool.

Shot whenever possible in and around crumbling Italian castles and villages, Dracula has a distinct European whiff that canít be faked or built, especially not on the $7 million budget Argento had. The relatively tiny piggy bank also shows in the never-convincing computer effects ó Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) turns into a wolf, an owl, a swarm of flies, and, in the movieís height of nuttiness, a man-sized praying mantis. But no gritty verisimilitude is established here in the first place ó itís not as though any sane viewer is going to say ďMan, I was totally convinced by this movieís stark realism until the praying mantis showed upĒ ó and if sketchy special effects send you packing, youíre going to miss out on half a thousand fun films from every era of horror cinema. The effects here (partially handled by longtime Argento collaborator Sergio Stivaletti, joining an old-school crew including cinematographer Luciano Tovoli and composer Claudio Simonetti) are pretty obviously consciously, winkingly artificial.

Argento and his three co-screenwriters more or less glance at Bram Stokerís novel, toss it aside and make shit up. Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) is now a librarian, summoned to catalog the tomes lining the walls of Castle Dracula. Lucy Westenra is now Lucy Kisslinger (Asia Argento), the mayorís daughter and best friend of Harkerís beloved, Mina (Marta Gastini). Thereís also Tania (Miriam Giovanelli), a fair-haired local maiden who becomes a bride of Dracula and gets her kit off whenever feasible; Renfield (Giovanni Franzoni) is now in blood thrall to Tania. Since this Renfield is too weird to do Draculaís bidding effectively, Dracula also has a bald, beefy bruiser named Zoran (Giuseppe Lo Console), who resembles Pawn Starsí Rick Harrison and lumbers around ax-murdering those who threaten to expose the Master.

And then Dr. Van Helsing shows up; this character has traditionally been an occasion for juicy overacting from the likes of Laurence Olivier and Anthony Hopkins, so perverse Argento has Rutger Hauer play Van Helsing as if awakened from a deep nap before each take. Hauerís compelling anyway, though, making bullets out of garlic and silver, or dispatching an enemy with laughable abruptness (the victimís eye pops out in gnarly 3D, for those lucky enough to see Dracula in the format). I canít really judge most of the acting, which has that charming dubbed quality familiar from many afternoons wasted in front of tax-shelter horror. I can say that Thomas Kretschmann (currently playing Van Helsing, ironically, on NBCís Dracula) brings a certain old-world delicacy to his seduction scenes and a persuasive brutality to his violent scenes, and that Asia Argento seems finally fulfilled as a hissing vampire with her head on fire.

Iíd say you need to have seen enough clunky horror movies to enjoy Argentoís goofing around here. Itís Dracula; heís going to take it deadly seriously? (Thatís the pitfall of the NBC series so far, methinks.) Itís colorful and tacky and eccentric, with elements smuggled in from Stokerís ďDraculaís Guest.Ē And thereís the damn praying mantis, which I think is the firm dividing line here. If you canít cackle and appreciate that, this Dracula does not have your name written all over it. I just sat back and said ďWhy the hell not.Ē And thatís not only a useful approach to Argentoís party, itís possibly also the filmís artistic credo. A seemingly pointless shot of Dracula pacing around his castle and growling, looking like an outtake of the actor trying to get into character? Why the hell not. A long-distance shot of a tiny Dracula scaling the wall of his castle and hissing at the camera? Why the hell not.

Argento hasnít been this playful in years, and neither has "Dracula."

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23771&reviewer=416
originally posted: 11/04/13 08:01:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2012 Festival de Cannes series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/07/13 Louis Blyskal Great Movie 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  04-Oct-2013
  DVD: 28-Jan-2014

UK
  N/A

Australia
  04-Oct-2013




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