The good films of Dario Argento give us a blood-rushing recipe of high-kitsch and low-nightmare. Witches and gore, corpses and breasts, the colour (largely) red _ the hallucinating delight of his schlock horror is something worth cheering (or laughing along with), for beneath the surface of sensationalism, films like Suspiria and Inferno made a contribution that good horror films should be making _ showing us how twisted the world, or people, can be.
Rutger Hauer is Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D .
That, sadly, is not the case with the latest film by this 72-year-old Italian director. In Dracula 3D, which is showing this Saturday at 10pm as part of the Italian Film Festival, the Roman schlockmeister takes on the canon of classic horror without actually vamping it up in any eye-popping way.
The 3D is plain, the vampiric Count (Thomas Kretschmann) is less a menace than a joyless joke, and the Gothic dread is low-key at best. The director's daughter, Asia Argento, shows up as Lucy, the saucy girl, and later as a thirsty ghost who can be subdued only by Abraham Van Helsing's pointy stake, down in that mouldy catacomb. Jonathan Harker comes across as a charmless dumb boy, and his wife, Mina, narrowly avoids her fate as the Transylvanian corpse bride.
That's pretty much what Bram Stoker wrote _ but behold, mere mortals, for there's also a giant preying mantis terrorising this Carpathian hamlet! As Dracula has become a pop-culture artifact over the years of many adaptations and vandalism, Argento won't leave the much-told tale unmarked by his own stamp of creative lunacy.
And yet, despite all of that, I suspect that the Saturday screening will be choc-full. Argento's kitschy, B-movie appeal is far from its best here, but any amount of kitschy, B-movie appeal is what people will expect to see, to laugh with or laugh at _ if not for its literal quality, then for the ironic, post-whatever knowingness on our part.
We know it's bad, that's why we'll watch it _ and even sincerely enjoy it. For me, besides Argento's daughter, ever a joy to watch, it's Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing, the vampire hunter as nutty as his target, that gives me consolation. No delirious nightmare here, only fake blood, barnyard sex and constant giggles. And that's probably sufficient for a late-night screening in crazy Bangkok.