Being a big fan of the Hammer Dracula films starring Christopher Lee (who, in my opinion, was the best Dracula ever), I always tend to view modern reboots of Stoker’s famous vampire lord with a certain degree of cynicism. For me, all the Dracula films since Christopher Lee’s have failed to recapture the magic and sheer entertainment value of the Hammer vampire, concentrating far too much on making the Count a sad, misunderstood, teen-appealing pinup boy rather than the traditionally terrifying, bloodsucking monster that we all come to expect. However, in regard to the latest take on the Dracula story – this time from Italian horror director Dario Argento – I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, for it wasn’t a bad little movie at all. And I liked it that much that I am even keeping it my DVD collection, something I rarely do, especially in regard to modern vampire flicks.
Without giving too much away, I will say that Dario Argento’s spin on the Dracula saga is, for the most part, quite stunning and unique, for it includes certain elements (e.g. the way Dracula changes form and becomes not only the customary wolf but other animals too) which I have never seen before in a Dracula movie. There are also some quite sexy scenes in this movie too, which will raise quite a few eyebrows among those who are used to the tamer kind of vampire movie.
The photography, the costumes, the use of colors and the gothic set designs all combine beautifully to evoke great memories of the vampire movies of old. The fact that Argento made the storyline a little different to that of the Stoker novel did not at all detract from my general enjoyment of the movie, for it was quite interesting to see where the plot was going next, and after a couple of shocks I hadn’t seen coming (especially the one involving the village axeman), I even thought that maybe this story would not have the happy ending we have seen time and time again in a Dracula movie, with the vampire hunters staking Dracula in his coffin as the young hero rescues his captured fiancee from the Count’s clutches in the nick of time. It was such a dark, vicious, edgy movie that I even feared that Van Helsing himself might come to a grisly end at the hands of this monstrous, seemingly omnipotent vampire lord. Rutger Hauer – whom I loved in The Hitcher and who has played a vampire himself (in Dracula III Ascenscion and in the remake of Salem’s Lot) – is fantastic in the role of Van Helsing, and I was really on the edge of my seat at the climax of the movie when he confronts Dracula and tries to save Mina, whom Dracula has hypnotised into believing that she is his for the taking.
The awesome special effects in this movie – especially where the staked vampires dissolve into dust – were the icing on the cake, and whilst the actor who played Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) did not really have the creepy, menacing look that Christopher Lee had, he certainly made up for this when he launched into his ferocious attacks and his stunning transformations, in which he dispatched his victims in the most bloody way imaginable.
All in all, Dario Argento’s Dracula is quite an impressive movie, and whilst I would not go as far as to say that it equals the brilliance of the Hammer Dracula films, it certainly is one I would highly recommend to any vampire fan to check out.