Featured 3D Blu-ray / DVD Review: Argento's Dracula
Dario Argento is a master of the horror genre. In fact, he helped change the genre and his influence is still felt today. However, it has been nearly 20 years since a film of his has earned overall positive reviews, and nearly 30 years since his last great movie. Will Argento's Dracula be the film that turns his recent streak around? Or is it more of the same weak releases he's put out in the past two decades?
The film begins with Tania being told by her mother to close the shop and especially to close the shutters tight because it is Walpurgis Night. Walpurgis Night is essentially the spring equivalent to Halloween. Tania does so and afterward sneaks out into the woods where she meets her married lover, Milos. While they are making love, Tania thinks she hears something. And afterward, she is scared to walk home alone, but Milos refuses to be with her, because he's married and doesn't want anyone to know they are having an affair. The pair have a fight over this and leave their separate ways. It isn't long before Tania is running for her life, but she doesn't get far before she is attacked and killed.
The next day, Jonathan Harker arrives by train on his way to Passburg. He's warned that getting there could be dangerous, but goes anyway. He sees a pack of wolves chasing him, but when he stops, they seem to vanish. When he gets to town he heads to an inn to stay the night. Among the patrons are Milos and his friend. They are making plans to go to Tania's grave to stake her, so she doesn't turn to a vampire. When they go to the cemetery, Renfeld attacks them blaming Milos for Tania's death. He does have a point. Renfeld even kills Milos before being subdued, but when the other two men check the coffin, Tania's body is gone.
The next day, Jonathan goes to see Lucy Kisslinger. Lucy is the best friend of Mina and is also the mayor's daughter. She's also the reason why Jonathan got his new job. She's the one who told him Count Dracula needed a new librarian. Unfortunately for for Jonathan, his employment doesn't last long. He's first seduced by the newly undead Tania, but that night is killed by Dracula and brought back as a vampire. He tries to escape, but is killed.
Shortly afterward, Mina arrives in town and is greeted by Lucy. It's too late for Mina to travel to Count Dracula that night, so she waits till the morning. That night, Dracula turns Lucy, although she's not fully a vampire yet. She just looks pale and sickly. Because of this Mina decides to stay with her and instead just sends a note to Jonathan. When Jonathan doesn't respond, she heads to the castle herself. She doesn't get there, at least not by herself. A pack of wolves scare her horse and she's thrown to the ground and falls unconscious. Dracula is instantly enthralled by Mina, has she looks just like his former wife, who died many, many years ago. She senses a power in Dracula and forgets why she was there.
Unfortunately, it's not until a hour and twelve minutes into the movie that he shows up. Rutger Hauer is by far the best part of this movie, but he's nowhere near enough to save it. There are a number of problems with this movie. First of all, the writing is flat. This is a rather uninteresting re-telling of the Dracula myth. It does nothing to stand out against the countless other versions that have been made. (No, I don't count the 3-D in this case.) Additionally, the film reportedly cost almost $8 million to make, which is admittedly low compared to most Hollywood releases, but the end product looks much, much cheaper than that. The CG effects are years out of date. There was a scene in which a wolf transforms into a person, but the transformation scene in An American Werewolf in Paris looked twice as good, and it was made 15 years earlier than this movie was.
It's not just the cheap looking special effects and production design that hurt this film. It was made in Budapest, Hungary with a cast that I am very sure are mostly non-native English-speaking people. The language barrier likely played a big role in their performances. Like I said, Rutger Hauer is the best part of this movie and his performance was practically the only one I didn't cringe at. I'm not saying the actors were bad. I don't know if they are or not. I would have to see them perform in their native tongues to judge them properly.
There are only two real extras, a making of special and a music video. This may not seem like much, but the making of special is more than an hour long. That's extensive. You can also watch the music video in 3D, which is unusual for a special feature.
The technical presentation is okay. Like I said, it wasn't a really expensive movie to make, so you can't compare it to a first-run Hollywood blockbuster and in that regard it looks good. There are a relatively high level of details and the colors are vivid. There's no compression issues to deal with. The audio is fine with good use of the surround sound speakers and clear dialogue.
The 3D doesn't add a huge amount to the movie. There is good depth in most scenes, but I think you really need more than that in a movie like this. The 3D needed to pop off the screen to make up for the lifeless movie.
The Blu-ray costs $17, which is only 13% more than the DVD. If it were worth picking up, that would have been a great deal.
If you are a fan of Dario Argento, stick with his other films. You don't want this one dragging down your opinion of the man. If you have never seen a movie of his, don't let Argento's Dracula be your first. If you are interested in buying, the 3D / 2D Blu-ray is the better deal over the DVD.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-01-27