For me, there are 3 basic levels that I can enjoy a movie on. The first level is how good it is. The acting, story, cinematography, direction, and originality of it. Is it clever? Charming? Interesting? Does it have anything to say? Some movies knock several of these out of the ball park, and those are great movies.
If it fails the first level, then we drop down to the second level- does it have at least one or two of the above things done well enough that it makes up for lacking in the others? There’s a lot of fairly bad movies that can at least craft a good atmosphere, or have a clever twist, or good comic timing; something cool about it.
Failing the above two levels, the last one is if it’s at least entertaining in some way. Is it fun? Over the top? Charismatic? Does it pack a ton of crazy shit in it to make up for the bad story and acting? Or is it at least so bad it’s ridiculous, and therefore fun to laugh at?
I don’t think that Dario Argento has any movies that fall into the first catagory, but he has a lot that fall into the second one. Even on his best movies, you can’t really question the story or think about things too much, you just have to go where his stories take you, and enjoy the ride. Sometimes he is capable of making you want to do this, but several of his movies fall apart and are as big of a dopey mess as most of Rob Zombie’s oeuvre (tho a lot more of Argento’s fall into the third catagory- they’re silly and you can’t take them seriously, but unlike Zombie, Argento can take you on that ride and go over the top, which makes you want to go on the ride and not question or overthink things because it would ruin the fun).
So Dracula 3D definitely had the potential to be an entertaining and gory over the top ride (and the trailor certainly made it look like it might be- not good but a lot of fun). The cast that I recognized (Asia Argento and Rutger Hauer (who was in the schlocky and over the top Hobo With a Shotgun, which was great)) have both been in a lot of good movies, and as I mentioned before, Argento can pull off an entertaining, fun (and weird) ride.
Unfortunately, it’s not as fun as the trailor made it seem; but it’s also not as bad as people are saying. There are parts of it that are fun, and gory and over the top. But too few. It’s like a mash-up of Stoker’s original novel, his Dracula’s Guest story, and Dracula Has Risen From The Grave with bits of Coppola’s Dracula, Fearless Vampire Killers, and all the other Hammer Dracula films mixed in for good measure (it seems to be particularly influenced by Hammer). It does manage to create a good atmosphere at times (he’s brought back his Susperia director of photography Luciano Tovoli, who does a great job filming shadow and light and setting a mood), and the period set pieces and costumes are good (once again kind of a Hammer feel to them with the inn and village).
There’s a decent amount of blood and violence, and it moves along at a fast pace. That’s the good stuff. On the other hand, it’s quite silly in places. The CGI is barely passable to terrible. Most of the actors overact to a high degree, and the score, tho actually really cool and kind of creepy in a couple of places, is jarring, cheesy, and distracting most of the time (it actually sounds like a cross between the Fearless Vampire Killers score (good) and some really cheesy ’50s sci-fi alien invasion movie (bad)- I believe he might have actually copped some of the score to Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks for some of it). The 3D is pretty much unnoticeable- I forgot it was even in 3D (except when I had to pay more). Worst of all, it looks like a film anyone could have made (other than Argento’s obsession with insects- did you know Dracula could turn into a giant praying mantis, or a bunch of flies, or evidently most any bug he wants? Where’s Jennifer Connelly when you need her?).
It’s not very stylized. The story is slightly changed from the original story of Dracula, but it follows all the beats pretty closely, and doesn’t really have much to offer in the way of style and originality (he should have remade the classic tale as a giallo with Dracula as a black gloved serial killer. Play to your strengths).
Argento just turned 73 years old, and I’m glad he’s doing more than sitting in a rest home molesting nurses. I also am definitely not against a schlocky version of Dracula, but it needed more style and more blood and guts and charisma to compete with the true schlocky classics. Too bad (tho it did still entertain me more than Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula)..