Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Argento's Dracula (Blu-ray Review) - IFC

Directed By: Dario Argento
Written By: Dario Argento, Antonio Tentori, Stefano Piani, Enrique Cerezo
Starring: Thomas Kretschmann, Asia Argento, Rutger Hauer
Color/110 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A

The Film
Dario Argento, a man that has seen the top of the horror mountain. He is responsible for popularizing the giallo genre, along with writing some of the best spaghetti western films. Hearing his name instantly brings about dramatic images, often flooded with color, from his films. He is a visionary director, a style that doesn't sit well with everyone but his vision, at least in his prime cannot be questioned. For me, he is my favorite film maker, and I have enjoyed all of his films to varying degrees, even some of the more recent films which seem to be almost universally disliked. When I first heard of the DRACULA 3D project I was intrigued, and of course excited. My favorite director was going to take on classic horror literature. 

In this version of Bram Stoker's timeless novel, Count Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) resides in his castle overlooking a small village which live in fear of him. Jonathan Harker has just arrived to the village to work in Count Dracula's library, leaving his beautiful wife Mina behind. He sees his old friend Lucy (Asia Argento) who is Mina's best friend and tells her that Mina will be arriving shortly. Dracula wants Mina for himself, as she bears a striking resemblance to his former lover of 400 years ago and believes Mina to be the reincarnation of her.Dracula leaves a blood stained trail through the village trying to obtain the girl for himself until vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer) arrives to stop his reign of terror. 

While the basic plot of Argento's DRACULA is similar to what you already know of Stoker's novel, the execution and style is far from it. While traditional vampire mythology allows vampires to turn in to bats, Argento has Count Dracula turning into everything from bats, to flies, roaches, wolves, an owl, and even a giant fucking praying mantis in one of the films most insane and bloody scenes. In true Argento form, DRACULA is violent and sexy. Blood sprays across the screen, beautiful women bare their bodies, and it is a classic practice of Italian horror. The film's biggest downfall, and one gripe every viewer has (and rightfully so) is the CGI. It is bad. Really bad. Epically bad. It is cheap, poorly rendered and looks like something out of  a Windows 95 game. The sets on the other hand are actually quite decent. The cobblestone houses, medieval interiors of the castle and dark woods all lend an air of atmosphere that aid the film in being creepy.

The acting is what you'd expect out of Argento film. If you've never seen one acting takes a backseat to style on many occasions. Sound isn't recorded live so each actor is dubbed, no matter what language they're actually speaking on set. The performances are okay. I've seen worse but I've certainly seen these performers do better. DRACULA 3D isn't Suspiria or Deep Red, it isn't even Phenomena or The Stendhal Syndrome. What it is is a violent and sexy exploitative take on the classic story that manages to take a small budget and turn out a pretty cheesy and entertaining film.

The Audio & Video
IFC Midnight delivers a gorgeous looking and sounding Blu-ray of DRACULA 3D. The single disc features both 3D and standard 2D options in full 1080p HD. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer shines with high levels of detail and a strong color palette. The black levels are deep and skin tones are natural. There is a 5.1 track and a lossless 2.0 track, both in English. The soundtrack from Claudio Simonetti sounds magnificent and is well mixed with the dialogue.

The Extras
The main feature for this disc is a behind the scenes featurette. Also included is a music video for the song "Kiss Me Dracula" which can be viewed in 3D. A pair of trailers round out the disc.

The Bottom Line
While this is far from classic Argento, and is not your grandfather's DRACULA, Argento pulls out an entertaining film with visual appeal. The shortcomings of the film don't hamper my enjoyment of it and I would recommend it if you're a fan of adaptations of the story.

DRACULA 3D is available HERE

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