Review: ‘Argento’s Dracula’ has a little bite left


Conventional wisdom holds that Dario Argento, maker of such classics as “Suspiria” and “Deep Red,” has been running on fumes for years now. But his latest, “Argento’s Dracula 3D,” has enough going for it besides its alphabetically VOD-friendly title to prove that the Italian horror and suspense maestro shouldn’t be entirely counted out.

At his best, Argento has a subversive wit and sinister perveyness somewhat analogous to that of photographer Helmut Newton, abstracting a sexy, decadent European glamour to reveal something ominous behind the stylish surfaces.

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Unlike Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 telling of “Dracula” that infused the classic tale with multiple subtextual concerns, Argento’s reading takes the story at face value, aided by Thomas Kretschmanns’ stern portrayal of the legendary title character. All the while, actress Marta Gastini turns in a charming performance as the innocent ingénue, seemingly unaware of the campy spectacular unfurling around her. (And is there a more disturbing and confounding father-daughter relationship in all of cinema than that between Argento and his daughter, Asia? She appears in a handful of scenes, naturally gets topless in a couple, and helps immensely in giving the film its dark charge.)

The arrival of Rutger Hauer as the vampire hunter Van Helsing comes at just the right moment to push the film onward, so when Dracula transforms into a giant praying mantis, the train finally pulls into Crazytown Station.

The effects may be cheap and unconvincing, the sets spare, the costumes from some unwanted back rack, but Argento still brings enough moments of kinky madness to his not-great “Dracula” to indicate there may yet be greatness lurking within him. Here’s hoping.

Mark Olson

“Argento’s Dracula 3D.” No MPAA rating. Running Time: 1 hour and 46 minutes. At Downtown Independent. Also on VOD.