Once upon a time, there was a genre of horror films called gialli. Hailing from Italy and named after the yellow paper upon which their literary precursors were printed, they blended mystery and gruesome horror that put the “gore” in “gorgeous.” They combine the elements of a suspense master with the brutal, grizzly violence of a Tom Savini film.
One of the undisputed masters of the genre has to be Dario Argento. He made some of the most highly regarded gialli films of all time, including Tenebre, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, and my personal favorite, Suspiria.
The plots border on the incomprehensible, but they contain some of the most visually stunning, artistically realized horror violence to ever grace celluloid. He is one of the undisputed horror films. Do you need proof? Check out the opening scene from Suspiria below:
The colors are rich and beautiful, practically leaping off the screen with their intensities. The film, while slightly dated in appearance, manages to feel both artistic and eerie (and the strange soundtrack does little to halt those feelings). It’s a brilliant film, with some of the most beautiful, unsettling visuals to come out of the gialli genre.
Argento’s most recent film, Dracula 3D, is finally getting a US release date, hitting American shores (possibly in a boat concealed from sunlight) on October 4th, just in time to disappear from screens before Halloween arrives.
If you’re asking why I seem so down on the latest work from a director whose films I greatly admire, don’t worry.I have an answer for you:
1) All those movies I mentioned? Yeah, they’re more than thirty years old. And this doesn’t mean Argento just stopped making films. Oh no, he’s come out with a new film every 2-4 years, which leads me to the second reason:
2) Here’s are just two examples of his later filmography: The Phantom of the Opera (in which Julian Sands plays the eponymous Phantom, this time non-deformed and raised by telepathic rats– I even double checked this to make certain it wasn’t one of my fever dreams.)
and Giallo, an Adrien Brody starring vehicle that feels more like a direct-to-DVD torture porn schlock fest than the classy, artistically satisfying Gialli films that inspired its title.
Now, we have Dracula 3D, starring Thomas Kretschmann (once seen as the noble German officer in Roman Polanski’s holocaust drama, The Pianist) as Dracula, Dario Argento’s daughter, Asia (who cannot act, but is treated like she can) as Lucy, and Rutger Hauer (best known as the titular hitcher in, well, The Hitcher) as Van Helsing. Check out a trailer below:
I’d love to be optimistic. I’d love to think this was a return to form. Instead, I’m just trying very, very hard to avoid jokes involving Dracula 3D and the word “suck” or “putting a stake in its heart before it gets its first night out of its coffin” (or film canister, if you prefer).
There’s nothing in this trailer to make me feel anything but a sense of deep, far reaching despair over how far the mighty have fallen. From the bargain basement special effects to the inherent ridiculousness of a man shouting an elongated “eeeevvvilll” towards the screen, the film looks to be one those horror films that could be woefully hilarious if it didn’t document the continued downward spiral of a former horror master. As it is, Argento is sucking the life out of his horror prestige faster than Dracula ever could. Alas, there’s always the chance he could make a comeback, but for now, shovel in the garlic, dump the holy water in buckets, and pull out your sharpest stakes. We’ve gotta put this blood sucker out of his misery.
So, what do you think, guys? Am I being too hard on this film, or do think it looks as dreadful as I do? Let us know in the comments!