The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, journeying by train and carriage from England to Count Dracula’s crumbling, remote castle situated in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Transylvania. The purpose of his mission is to catalogue the big library of Dracula. At first enticed by Dracula’s gracious manner, Harker soon discovers that he has become a prisoner in the castle. He also begins to see disquieting facets of Dracula’s nocturnal life. One night while searching for a way out of the castle, and against Dracula’s strict admonition not to venture outside his room at night, Harker falls under the spell of three wanton female vampires, the Brides of Dracula.
It is never easy to take on a horror legend, to tell a famous and well known story in a different way. Most directors would be ridiculed just for speculating about such a thing. But when Dario Argento decided to have a crack at Dracula, well, surely that would be different?
Not knowing much about the plot of Dracula 3D I was expecting a traditional telling of the story but while there are many elements lifted directly from the original text, Argento has played around with it a little. The film opens with a young woman being attacked by Dracula following a secret tryst with her lover. A few days later some locals decide to exhume the body only to discover the coffin empty, before then being attacked by Renfield (Giovanni Franzoni) who is there to protect his master’s new companion.
Some time later Jonathon Harker (Unax Ugalde) arrives in the village to begin work as a librarian at Castle Dracula. His wife Mina (Marta Gastini) is due to follow on later and in the meantime he seeks out family friend Lucy (Asia Argento). When he finally makes it to the castle and meets the mysterious Count (Thomas Kretschmann) he soon discovers all is not as he first thought and becomes trapped and lost in the vast castle. As the village council, who up until this point have tolerated Dracula’s bloodthirsty demands, begin to question themselves Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer) is called upon to investigate and hopefully end the tyranny.
The biggest problem with Dracula 3D is that it just doesn’t know what it wants to be. Firstly it is not an accurate translation of the story. As I said there are traditional elements such as character names and some of the vampire myths but the things that are changed add nothing to the film. The village leaders are in some unholy agreement with The Count which when revealed contradicts some of what has gone before and the characters are placed in different situations to what we know and expect. If Mina and Lucy are truly old friends then how can the former and her husband know nothing of Dracula save that he has an extensive library that needs cataloguing.
Secondly, and annoyingly, I couldn’t work out if Argento was heading down the spoofing line with this film. The acting is so poor in places as to be almost parody. Asia Argento is wooden and unconvincing and Thomas Kretschmann, a German thespian of some repute, is neither frightening or enchanting in the title role. The supporting cast just seem to be going through the motions and add little of note. The direction is all over the place and I almost got the impression that Argento himself had little interest in the film. There is the usual well known use of colour and plenty of gore but when it comes to the CG it is like he decided just to see how far he could push it; Dracula actually turns into a giant preying mantis at one point!
Unfortunately there is little positive to say about Dracula 3D. I would recommend anyone wanting to watch an Argento film to revisit Tenebrae or Suspiria as this film adds nothing to his reputation as a filmmaker.
Dracula 3D (2012)