“Is it right to be obsessed with looking at terrible things and sharing them with other people?” — Dario Argento, Italian film director, producer and screenwriter
Quoting Argento, I feel like some whore in a shower stall talking to herself as she cleans off the filth of her last embarrassing encounter. That is to say, I know that if/when Dario Argento’s DRACULA 3D will be released in the US, I will look. In fact, I really want to like what I see. I do. I swear.
But should I be sharing such an awful thing with other people? Especially when this long awaited film — screened and panned at Cannes and currently only being distributed in Europe — still has no U.S. release date!?!?!?
Famous for 1977’s Suspiria, and being cited as an inspiration for the work of directors like John Carpenter, Argento has made over twenty horror movies, each with a schlocky seventies european sensibility. He has amassed quite a fan-base around the world, and is given a degree of respect in Europe; but when his re-interpretation of Dracula in 3D was screened at Cannes last May, the audience jeered and many left their seats.
Still, like his central character here — a Dracula that’s cunning and oddly appealing — Argento’s films have a certain charm. They are forever stuck in the hazy twilight of adolescent wonder for all things reputedly hip and cool simply because they are foreign — a benefit of the doubt certainly extended more easily in the days before the web and the globalization of media. But Argento’s appeal is limited, and his consistently bad movies, while often entertaining in their ineptitude, tend to receive more attention before people actually see them. He has our enthusiasm on credit because of an account only long ago in good standing.
Like the count himself, Argento seemed far more interesting the first, second or even the third or fourth time around — when he was novel, exotic, a stranger from a strange land.
Suspiria is a good example of how one of his films can be more than their silly premises (in this case “ballerina vs. witches”). With beautiful cinematography and an atmosphere of the surreal, Suspiria consistently finds it ways to top positions in lists of great horror films.
Still, 1977 was 35 years ago. And Argento has made no effort to adapt his skills or sensibilities to modern audiences.
I’ll expect terrible CGI and clumsy use of 3D. I’ll forgive the poor acting (Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing is the only actor with even a slight chance of salvaging what is sure to be terrible dialogue). And I’ll look past what’s sure to be downright bizarre physical effects (a review from Cannes mentioned a a gigantic bug?). And why will I excuse all of this? Because I’m a sucker for bad foreign, bloody period semi-(or even not) faithful adaptations of Dracula (need I say more than Jess Franco’s El Conde Dracula with Christopher Lee?). They all can’t be Hammer’s brilliant Horror of Dracula (1958), Coppolla’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), or even Lugosi in Todd Browning’s classic Universal fare (1931). But they are all worth a watch just once. Just to say I’ve seen every Dracula film (and I’m pretty sure I have).
Sure, the blood will be fun. And Argento filming his beautiful daughter, Asia, in all manner of stages of undress as Lucy will be oddly alluring and extremely off-putting at the same time, I’m sure.
But does Dracula 3D have enough of what makes a bad movie good to ever get this film to rise above the just plain terrible?
You be the judge. And so will I.
If it’s ever released here in the states, you can bet I’ll follow up. Good or bad, Dracula 3D is bound to be a guilty pleasure worth pursuing.