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‘Argento’s Dracula 3D’ the latest in a line of lackluster horror films

Date: 1/30/2014

By G. Michael Dobbs

I’m presenting a very mixed bag in this week’s movie review column.

Argento’s Dracula 3D

Recently I’ve watched two films by major directors whose heyday was the better part of the 20 to 30 years ago and both films were pale imitations of their original style.

It has made me wonder if some directors either can no longer think of new ways to present a film story or if they believe a repetition of cinematic devices and styles is enough to put over a new movie.

Now I have a third example of this unfortunate trend: “Argento’s Dracula 3D.” When this arrived on my desk I was quite pleased. Dario Argento is acknowledged as one of the masters of the modern horror film. Considered to be a great stylist, Argento’s work has been lauded by several generations of fans.

This film, however, is so inept and so terribly bad that anyone who is not familiar with Argento’s previous work would assume he is just another hack.

The film is a return to the traditional handling of vampires: they are evil undead creatures. It is set in the 19th century in central Europe and has a look reminiscent of the classic Hammer films starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

There is some bloodshed – it is a Dracula film – and some heaving bosoms and sexuality, but those elements certainly don’t make up for a muddled story that steals moments and ideas from previous Dracula films.

Also disturbing is Argento’s reliance on green screen and computer animation to achieve his effects. The technology used is definitely low budget and it is a distraction.

My favorite moment in the film is when Dracula turns into a giant computer animated praying mantis to kill someone. What?

The performances, with the exception of Thomas Kretschmann as Dracula, are muted and uninteresting. Kretschmann at least tries to bring the character to life, but is hobbled by a lousy script.

The Blu-Ray I watched had a 3D version, if you had the right television set-up. I do not, but I can only imagine the film would be no better in that format.

I’ll bet this will turn up at a Red Box near you, but don’t waste your dollar plus tax.

Making Stuff 2

This collection of NOVA programs from PBS is a great way to sneak science into your household.

Technology writer David Pogue serves as the host of four programs that address how technology is moving forward. He does so with humor, but not so much to obscure the really interesting stuff.

Yes, I like science and history and “Making Stuff 2” brings both of those subjects together.

Each of the four shows has a theme: Wilder, Colder, Safer, and Faster. Wilder, for example, shows how engineers and scientists today are turning more and more to the natural world for inspiration. One scientist is working with the eel-like hagfish in an effort to find a new source of nylon-like strands that eventually could be used for fabric. In Germany, the trunk of an elephant was the basis for anew type of industrial robot arm.

In the episode revolving around speed, the science behind such mundane, but complex, activities such as loading passengers onto a plane or determining what route a UPS driver should take are discussed.

This is intriguing and fun stuff that you will enjoy and just maybe your kids will like as well.

Quick take: Machete Kills

While the first “Machete” film kept its feet fairly firmly planted on the ground – for a retro 1970s exploitation film – the sequel is a dizzying parade of excesses.

Danny Trejo is back as the former Mexican Federale who is charged by the president of the United States (Charlie Sheen) to hunt down a madman played with scene-chewing intensity by Mel Gibson.

If you didn’t like the first film, you’re going to hate the second. I loved it, but the film represents one of my guiltiest pleasures.