Filming has begun on a new version of Dracula, directed by none other than the maestro of stylish gore–Dario Argento! How do we know? Well, for one thing because a star of the film tweeted as much. Asia Argento, daughter of the great director and veteran of her father’s Phantom of the Opera (among many others), announced it in June. Now the official website includes a video preview as well as a large gallery of images. Among other things, what that reveals is that neither blood nor nudity seem in short supply. The look is most definitely Italian rather than English, not least the inclusion of a bearded Roman Catholic Priest. Rutger Hauer, who not only portrayed Barlow in the remake of Salem’s Lot as well as the main opponent of Buffy in the original film, essayed Dracula himself in Dracula: Ascent. But for this motion picture, he switches sides. The Dutch-born star this time portrays vampire hunter Van Helsing! Other tantalizing tidbits–Asia Argento’s character teaching some young girl the piano, evidently some peasant girl (who engages in a tryst at some point) terrified as she’s attacked by a vampire, as well as some names in the cast list not immediately recognizable: Asia portrays Lucy, with Thomas Krestchmann as the vampire Count, Marta Castini as Mina, and Unax Ugalde as Jonathan. But Tania? Jarmila? Andrei?
A remarkably detailed synopsis also awaits at the website, beginning thus:
One night in the woods adjacent to Passo Borgo, at the foot of the Carpazi mountains, a couple of young lovers, Tania and Milos, secretly meet. On her way home, Tania is chased and overcome by a “dark shadow” that kills her. In those days Jonathan Harker, a young librarian, arrives at the village hired by Count Dracula, a nobleman from the area. Tania’s body mysteriously disappears from the cemetery. In the meantime Harker, before going to Count Dracula’s castle, takes the opportunity to visit Lucy Kisslinger, his wife Mina’s best friend as well as the daughter of the local mayor.
Upon arriving at the castle, Harker is greeted by Tania, brought back to life from the dead and made vampire, who tries from the very beginning to seduce him; however they are interrupted by Dracula’s entrance welcoming Harker. The following night Tania tries again to bite Harker, she is close to his neck when she is stopped by the count who gets the upper hand and it is he himself who bites Harker’s neck, however allowing him to live. The following day, weakened but still conscious Harker attempts to escape, but as soon as he is outside the castle a large wolf with a white lock assaults and savagely kills him. Meanwhile, Mina, Harker’s wife, arrives in the village and is guest for a few days at the home of her dearest friend Lucy Kisslinger, who will also be bitten and vampirized. The day after, Mina, worried about her husband, goes to Count Dracula’s castle. Their encounter makes her forget the reason for her presence there. She is completely under the count’s influence; the count had orchestrated the events leading up to their encounter; in fact Mina looks exactly like his beloved Dolinger, who died some centuries ago. Upon her return to the Kisslinger house, Mina learns of the death of her dear friend Lucy. The sequence of such strange and dramatic events summons the aid of Van Helsing, vampire expert of the techniques used to eliminate them. Van Helsing, aware of the circumstances decides to act swiftly and prepares the tools needed to combat vampires. He directs himself to the center of evil, Count Dracula’s castle. Meanwhile Dracula, in the village, kills the inhabitants who rescinded their pact, while Van Helsing, inside the castle, is able to definitively eliminate Tania. Dracula, intent on his desire to reunite with his beloved wife, leads Mina, completely hypnotized, to the castle where Van Helsing is waiting. He has decided to engage in a deadly fight with his evil foe. During the struggle Van Helsing loses his gun with the silver bullet and Mina, still under Dracula’s spell, gathers it and tries to aid Dracula, but she misses the target and involuntarily kills him. The special silver bullet transforms Dracula into ashes; but his spirit lifts the ashes into the air and uniting, they shape into a large bat with a mocking grin…”
Some aspects of this seem familiar, echoing Francis Ford Coppola’s version almost two decades ago. Actual footage reveals a much grittier look, not the symbolist/stylized version. All of Lucy’s suitors seem to have been eliminated, while the location of the story has been moved out of England. If anything, this version echoes (so far) a combination of the big budget Dracula with Gary Oldman (the romantic subplot, really borrowed from The Mummy as well as Dark Shadows) and Hammer Studio versions from the 1960s (the streamlined locations, deliberate inclusion of lower classes and overt sexuality).
The official website is here.
Looks like another major vampire film to look forward to in 2012–a gore-laden antidote to those sick of “fluffy” undead a la Twilight.