Van Helsing

Review by Andy Patrizio and Cindy White

May 24, 2007 - There was a lot riding on Van Helsing. Along with the $160 million price tag, this was make or break time for Hugh Jackman. He'd done well in the ensemble X-Men, but other films like Swordfish and Kate & Leopold hadn't set the box office on fire. This would be his big test to see if he could be the leading man a lot of people hoped he would be.

Well, it would be totally unfair to blame him for this atrocity. No, that lies squarely on the shoulders of writer/director Stephen Sommers, who started out with a decent adaptation of The Adventures of Huck Finn and has gone down hill from there. Van Helsing puts him in the same league as Paul W.S. Anderson, not that anyone should aspire to that dubious distinction.

This movie proves that $160 million still can't buy you a heart, and for me, it comes two days after watching one of the most touching and emotional films I've seen in ages (Shawshank). But you'd think it could buy some acting lessons for the supporting cast. And maybe a rewrite by Joss Whedon.

Opening in black and white, a nice touch, we see Dr. Frankenstein bringing his monster (Shuler Hensley) to life. However, the mob with pitchforks and torches shows up to ruin the celebration, as Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) points out. The creature is thought destroyed, and we cut to Paris 1888.

Van Helsing (Jackman) is chasing after Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane and a ton of CG). The battle ends with a dead Dr. Jeckyl and the revelation that Van Helsing's efforts are not liked nor appreciated. He returns to the Vatican, where we find an underground base for the Knights of the Holy Rose, an organization consisting of all of the world's religions.

Turns out Van Helsing is somewhat of an indentured servant and his rather harsh methods haven't made them very happy, either. He gets his next assignment, in Transylvania. He is to kill Dracula before he can complete an experiment that will allow vampires to populate the globe. Dracula needs Frankenstein's monster because he is the key to the machinery that will give everlasting life to thousands of his little bloodsuckers.

If that weren't enough, he also has to protect the last two members of the Valerious family. Their family would never be able to Heaven until Dracula is dead, and the two are all that's left of nine generations. Conveniently, brother Velkan is thought killed (instead, he turns into a werewolf) and sister Anna (Kate Beckinsale) is all that's left.

After a segment reminiscent of Q's lab in a James Bond movie, Van Helsing sets off with his sidekick, goofball friar Carl (David Wenham). In Transylvania, he's greeted about as warmly as a leper, and almost immediately ends up in a fight with Dracula's three harpy wives.

Where do I begin? For all that money, the CG is painfully cheap to look at. Pitch Black looked more realistic and they did it for $23 million. Dracula is about as menacing as Count Chocula and sounds like him, too.

His brides overact to such a ridiculously corny degree they make the Wicked Witch of the West look like Judi Densch. Killing off Josie Maran's character early on didn't sit well with me, either.

Beckinsale, so gorgeous in Underworld, looks like an idiot here, wearing a horrendous wig and sporting a bad accent. She also defies gravity and pain in a manner worthy of Charlie's Angels. Carl is a typical goofball sidekick we've seen Matthew Lillard do dozens of times. Hensley is the only supporting character worth a damn in his good portrayal of Frankenstein's monster.

The movie isn't a story, it's a series of stunts and CG fests with one mindless action sequence after another. And it runs two bloody hours. I haven't wanted a movie to end this badly in ages.

Most unforgivable: they cribbed Tuco's legendary "don't talk about it" line from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Does Sommers have delusions that he's Sergio Leone? If so, then they are just that, delusions.

If you want to see a cool vampire hunter story, find Vampire Hunter D. This is just another sorry waste of too much money on a director who would rather make a video game.

Fanged Films

USA, 1970
USA, 2012

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 1
The Fearless Vampire Killer
Vol. 1 No. 1
I Am Dracula