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Dracula 3D (2012)

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Dracula 3D (2012)Starring Thomas Kretschmann, Rutger Hauer, Asia Argento, Miriam Giovanelli, Unax Ugalde

Directed by Dario Argento


For many, word that Dario Argento has made a bad film isn’t exactly news. I get it, even though I largely disagree with that stigma. I’m under no illusion that there’s a pretty sizable gap between his greatest works (everything pre-1990) and “modern” output (everything after it). With the exception of Phantom of the Opera, I’ve found lots to like about his later canon: the lingering and haunting psychological devastation of The Stendhal Syndrome, the playful homage of Do You Like Hitchcock? and the gonzo what-the-fuckery of Mother of Tears. Sure, it’s lesser Argento, but I’ve always had fun.

Which is precisely why Dracula 3D is such a downer. It’s not only the worst film in the director’s career, it’s a banal exercise in terrible CGI, laughable performances and inept staging. A movie so embarrassing that I sunk so far in my seat that I was on the floor by the time it was finished.

I know that negative reviews have a tendency to be hyperbolic, but Dracula 3D really is that bad. And worse, it’s a lifeless chore. It opens with promise (which might’ve been my short-lived optimism): a young lover on her way home from a forbidden tryst is chased through a thick, fog-laden forest by a sinister entity. In these opening moments, there’s a healthy bit of exploitation shrouded with enough atmosphere to help offset the noticeably cheap look. It doesn’t last long and, if you’re even remotely familiar with the director’s work, all you can do is wonder what a younger Argento might’ve done with this.

The collected goodwill is smothered right off as it becomes abundantly clear that Dracula 3D is nothing more than a stillborn retelling of Bram Stoker’s novel. It’s a story we’ve seen countless times. Done better. And everyone has their favorite iteration, whether it’s Tod Browning, George Melford, Terence Fisher, John Badham or Francis Ford Coppola. Each Stoker adaptation has impassioned fans, and while I don’t love every one, I understand the followings. But this? Argento never manages to beat the aforementioned films at their own game, and so not only do you spend this film wondering what younger Argento might’ve done, but also how much better it’s been done before.

I’m not suggesting that we should expect directors to repeat their past successes ad nausea. Last week I praised Nicolas Winding Refn for aggressively steering away from doing a Drive retread with Only God Forgives. So I think it’s great that Argento wanted to step outside his usual repertoire of gloved killers and sexual trauma (although it’s becoming clear that perhaps he shouldn’t), but imagine what his ‘modern’ Dracula film might’ve looked like had it been nestled somewhere in between Tenebre and Phenomena. Ferocious energy, a pulsing Goblin synth score (to be fair, Claudio Simonetti gives this film a lighthearted, fun score) and beautiful, practical FX work.

I suppose that suggests I projected a lot of my own expectations onto Dracula 3D. Not really. I saw that laughable demo trailer a few years back so I’d argue that my expectations were perfectly tempered. But Dracula 3D even underdelivered on the promise of bottom-of-the-barrel fun. I’m not criticizing this movie for what it isn’t, even if I did spend the entirety of it wondering what it could’ve been.

It’s just sad. And I was more depressed at the end of Dracula 3D than anything else. It’s stagnant hackery and I simply can’t believe I’m saying that about Dario Argento. All traces of his former visual flare have been extinguished, leaving a movie that looks like the worst kind of languid television. Indifferently shot and incompetently staged, you’d be hard-pressed to find another film so blithely produced.

There comes a moment late in the film where an enraged Dracula massacres a roomful of villagers without breaking a sweat. It’s not an especially great scene – the choreography is clunky and the lighting nonexistent – but it throws enough gore around while mustering a modicum of energy. And for a second it looks as though Dracula 3D might spring to life in the 11th hour. But it doesn’t. Similarly, much has been made of Dracula’s ability to transform into any animal or insect, but the CGI praying mantis (which has become an ironic fan favorite) disappoints. It’s on screen for just a few seconds, wreaking the kind of inconsistent carnage where it appears to bite off a man’s head, only to show the intact body afterwards. And this comes from the genius who once made Suspiria.

The supporting cast is uniformly terrible and completely laughable. Unax Ugalde is so detached from this movie’s reality you have to wonder if he was even directed. Miriam Giovanelli is often topless and watching her assets burst from the screen in 3D brings an admittedly lowbrow moment of fun to the proceedings, but her performance is dire. Asia Argento is beyond awful, realizing her character with a mix of indifference and disdain (for the material, most likely). Then there’s the biggest names: Thomas Kretschmann is a presence I almost always enjoy. But he doesn’t care about this. Rutger Hauer pops in just when you’ve forgotten he’s a part of the cast, and seems determined to one-up Kretschmann’s indifference. The two of them have a climactic “battle” that is essentially Hauer pulling no less than two weapons out of his coat only to have them smacked aside while he’s trying to deliver an expository incantation. A fitting end to this mess.

Then there are flashbacks – an attempt to elucidate the rivalry between our hero and villain that ranks among the film’s sloppiest moments. Dracula and Van Helsing encountered each other once before, when the good doctor stumbled across a vampiric outbreak inside a sanitarium. But the scene abruptly ends as soon as Van Helsing finds Dracula among the patients. We never see the outcome of this confrontation, nor is it explained why Dracula didn’t simply kill him back then. The whole movie is illogical and it’s more evidence that no one involved in making this gave much of a damn.

If you’ve never seen an Argento film, if this is your first foray, then for the love of God don’t start here. You’ll never want to see another one. And that’s the biggest problem with Dracula 3D, it’s an embarrassing experience. Even Argento’s greatest apologists have to fess up and admit they wouldn’t show this nonsense to anyone. It’s a latchkey project in this director’s career, a movie that should be locked up and never spoken of again.

I’m sorry Dario. I still love you.


1/2 out of 5

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Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?

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Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas


While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

  • Inside (Remake)
3.0

Summary

Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

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What If Tina Fey Wrote Jennifer’s Body? My Friend’s Exorcism Book Review

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“Rummaging in one of his duffel bags, [the exorcist] pulled out and athletic cup and slid it down the front of his pants. ‘First place they go for,’ he explained. He then adjusted himself and picked up a well-worn Bible. ‘Let’s do the Lord’s work.'”

It was about a year ago now (it seems) that I first saw the cover of “My Best Friend’s Exorcism.” If you haven’t seen it for yourself in all of its glory, make sure to click the image over to the right for a more in-depth look. Awesome, right? Got to love all the VHS details such as the “Horror” and “Be Kind Rewind” stickers. Classic. Utter classic.

Now I’m fully aware that one should not judge a book by its cover. Literally. But still the moment I saw this work of delicious art crop up in the inbox I had to read the book asap. Well, it turns out asap was about a year later, but all the same, I’ve now had a peek at the inside of the book as well as the outside. Does the content inside match the content outside?

Let’s find out…

For those who might not know, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” (henceforth referred to as MBFE) tells the tale of two best friends named Abby and Grethen. One night the two, and a few of there other friends, drop a bit of acid for the first time. While the drug never kicks in (no worries, there’s no lame twist-ending to be had here) poor Gretchen still wanders off into the woods and gets possessed like a motherf*cker in some creepy abandoned building. From there, things go from bad to worse until an unlikely exorcist is called in and things go off the wicked walls in all the best ways possible.

Now, to review. First of all, let it be know that MBFE is more of a teen romance (between two friends) than a straight tale of terror. Think of it as “What if Tina Fey wrote Jennifer’s Body?” and that will give you a good hint at what the book holds in store for you. Not that that’s a bad thing. Still, you should be aware that the first 2/3 of the book is almost exclusively teenagers not getting along, bitch about losing touch, who is sleeping with who, and yada, yada, yada for pages on end. Dramarama for days. Mostly.

That said, not only is the teen drama bearable (and truthfully quite sweet in spots), Hendrix keeps the horror in the spotlight just enough that I never lost faith the book was heading somewhere truly balls to the wall. And it does. Oh, boy does it. From the time the unholy shite hits the fan in the last third, to the time the last word is read, the book is filled with horror moments that will make even the most jaded fright-fiction fan gag, grimace, or stand up and cheer!

You just have to get through all the angst first…

But speaking of angst, let me get a bit of extremely personal business out of the way real quick. Can I trust you with this info? Sure I can. MBFE made is cry like a baby. Not kidding. There have been very few times in my life that I have literally burst out crying. I’ve had some sad shite happen in my days, and I have seen some sad-ass movies, but nothing has made me cry out of the f*cking blue like MBFE. I’m not going to go into details about the final 10 pages of the book, but it tore my poor horror-heart a new one. It was bad. Like snot and hyperventilating type shite. Again, not kidding. Thank the lord I wasn’t in public is all I can say. I would have arrested and thrown in the booby-hatch.

MBFE goes along like a slightly horror-centric version of Mean Girls and Heathers for most of its page count. If you’re a straight horror fan, you’ll be at odds with whether you should bother finishing it or not. You will. Trust me. But listen to me now and know that once our heroine goes into the dark, dank bedroom of the school’s resident bitch to find out why she hasn’t been in school the past few days/weeks, the horror hits like holy hell. And it only gets worse (RE: better) from there.

In the end, MBFE is a book ever horror fan should own – if only for the cover. I dug the hell out of the book (eventually) and I’m sure the majority of you guys will too. But even for those hard-hearts out there that just can’t stand to read about things like uncompromising love, and hellfire-forged friendship, you still need to own the book. You still owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you don’t care for it, that’s cool, just display in on your bookshelf in all it’s VHS glory. It will make you look cool.

  • My Best Friend's Exorcism - Book Review
3.5

Summary

Grady Hendrix’s “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” is a killer mixture of Mean Girls, Heathers, and The Exorcist. Just think of it as “What if Tina Fey wrote Jennifer’s Body” and you’ll have a good indication of what lies in store for you within the amazing VHS-inspired cover art.

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Knock Knock Review – This Throwback To The VHS Era Packs A Fun Punch

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Starring Kerry Tartack, Sisi Berry, Chuk Hell

Directed by Toby Canto


I remember the glory days of my youth back in the early to mid-80’s, renting every friggin horror flick on VHS and keeping the cassettes well past the return dates, eventually blacklisting my name from damn near all of the movie shops in my hometown. For the sole reason of wanting to hop back in the time-machine, I’ll never turn down the opportunity to check out a film that promises to ship you back to the days of all of that cheesy-neon attire and overblown hairdos.

Director Toby Canto was generous enough to offer his latest film up onto the sacrificial stone, and it’s called Knock Knock – about a WAY past his prime pugilist named Sam (Tartack) who is unwillingly thrust into a throwdown with a bloodsucker who happens to reside in the same apartment – damn noisy neighbors! His only birthday wish is to spend his 60th go-round safely hold up in his domicile, away from pesky residents alike. Well, that plan goes to shit when his kooky neighbor (Berry) comes by and pitches the idea of throwing hands with the newest tenant: a real creature of the night (Lucas Ayoub).

Sam initially nixes the idea wholeheartedly, but when more of his quirky neighbors show up to his place to substantiate the vampiric-claims, Sam finds himself lacing up the leather for one more round…or two, depending on if he can still take a beating. Filled with more than a handful of goofy instances, this near-hour presentation won’t blow the doors off of the horror/com vehicle, but should more than suffice in the short-term until the next spooky-laugher comes slithering out of its hole.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Historians alike, this movie’s for those who want a reminder of how loopy those VHS days were, and the best part is you don’t have to rewind a freakin’ thing.

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