Dec 4: Van Helsing

“The notorious monster hunter is sent to Transylvania to stop Count Dracula who is using Dr. Frankenstein’s research and a werewolf for some sinister purpose.”
Directed by: Stephen Sommers, Rated: PG-13, 131 minutes

Van Helsing is a film very similar to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in both style and substance. Both films tackle literary villains and characters we’ve seen countless adaptations of and both movies do it with heavy CGI and very little depth. While LXG may be awful to the point of being hard to watch, Van Helsing is just really hard to swallow. It’s a movie so severely flawed it’s hard to forgive, but by the end credits, you’re at least the slightest bit entertained. Plus, for the majority of that run-time we get to see Kate Beckinsale run around in a corset. And anytime I have an excuse to see that, I’m more than happy to sit back and take it in.

Too many layers to keep you THAT engaged.

Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman and yes, Gabe, not Abraham) is a man who works for the Catholic Church. He’s one of their rather unorthodox agents in that he travels the world hunting monsters, creatures, ghouls, and all sorts of baddies. Van Helsing is sent to Transylvania (of course) to find and defeat the evil Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) who has been terrorizing a local village and poses a threat to the Church. We all know God hates vampires. Of course, Van Helsing, being the blockbuster hero he is, cannot do this dangerous task all alone so the comic-relief/inventor Carl (David Wenham) tags along for the ride. Once they have arrived in Eastern Europe, Van Helsing meets the beautiful, poorly-accented Anna Valerious (Beckinsale) who has a lot at stake in the war versus Dracula. Together, all three must find a way to stop the king of all vampires and bring peace to a land destined to be nothing more than the home of the bloodsuckers. Oh, Frankenstein’s monster, Jekyl and Hyde, and a lot of little vampire babies also pop up in the film, because why not?

Another picture for safe measure.

Years ago, I loved the crap out of this movie. I thought, “Wolverine AND Kate Beckinsale fighting vampires together!? F**k yes!”, and that initial excitement must have completely disillusioned me from seeing the real quality of the film. In short, Van Helsing sucks a lot of undead ass. It’s pacing is terrible, and the God-awful script makes you laugh more than anything. Directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy), you do go in expecting a wild mix of CGI and action, with a tad bit of humor throw in for good measure, but unfortunately, Van Helsing lacks any of the epic feelings The Mummy was able to elicit to keep things interesting. The movie, however, has a couple of great set pieces, including the Transylvanian town and Dracula’s castle, but whenever the action gets heavy and the CGI rolls out like the poorly rendered beast it is, you lose any of the impressiveness of those sets. It’s quite disappointing that a film that’s only eight years old looks so bad in the special effects department, especially when the studio behind those effects, helped pioneer those used in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The only bits worth mentioning are the transformations of both Dracula’s brides and the werewolves, but even then it’s more about the idea behind them and not the actual executions.

And one more because this is America.

Hugh Jackman tries his hardest to make Van Helsing watchable and you’re just left praying to God that he returns to the Adamantium-boned, cigar-smoking Wolverine and maintains that character as his only action hero. Even with all of his Aussie charisma and charm, Jackman can do very little with awful effects and even worse dialogue. Van Helsing is a film that can and should be easily forgotten and left in the past. Unfortunately  with the long-rumored reboot/sequel/prequel/remake on its way sooner than later, those locked away memories will only resurface. In the mean time, skip Van Helsing if you haven’t seen it already (it’s 131 f**king minutes long) and if you have, stay away from any bits of teasing you may have of being compelled to re-watch it.

The Good:
Beckinsale in a corset
The Bad:
terrible special effects that are more laughable than anything else
The Ugly:
disgusting dialogue and pretty bad acting that leave you really frustrated and even angry

Overall: 4.1/10

Discussion Question:
Do we really need re-tellings of Dracula, Frankenstein, and other literary horror stories?


Written By Nick

Nick is a man obsessed with all things related to film. From the most obscure to the very popular, he’s seen it all and hopes to one day turn his obsession into a career that makes a lot of money so he can buy a monkey, a bulldog, and a full size Batman suit.

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the author

Nick is a man obsessed with all things related to film. From the most obscure to the very popular, he's seen it all and hopes to one day turn his obsession into a career that makes a lot of money so he can buy a monkey, a bulldog, and a full size Batman suit.

  • Great review, man. I loved this one as a kid, but yeah, it’s pretty bad. Roxburgh as Dracula was fun, though. And obviously Kate Beckinsale looked great, but she always does.

  • Nick

    Just like my re-watching of LXG, I was disappointed. I feel bad that I used to actually like this movie…

  • Haha, I do a bit too. I loved LXG as well when I was a kid. I bet I’d hate it now. That one was A MESS.

  • i’d rather just watch beckinsale walk down the street. and i’d pay just as much. the problem for me was that the fight scenes seemed too orchestrated. punches, counter-moves, everything was just too perfect as if jackman were wearing ballet shoes and were on stage, which is not at all impossible. they wore too much clothing, all that heavy leather shit, to really have a legitimate fight. as you said “hard to swallow.” however, i can think of 14 ways to use “swallow” and “beckinsale” in the same sentence, and for it to be a good thing.

  • Nick

    Actually, as I typed that, those were the exact same things I thought of.

  • then i’m justified. case closed.