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Van Helsing Review

By Shawn McKenzie 05/10/2004

I’ve seen the complaints.  Van Helsing isn’t true to its source material, it borrows liberally from other movies, and is all special effects with no story.  In most ways, all of that is true, but if you’re looking for a simple good time at the movie theater, you won’t care about that other stuff.


Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a legendary young monster hunter in the 19th century with no memory of his past.  He works for a secret organization in Rome, called the Knights of the Holy Order, which kills all things supernatural.  We first see Van Helsing battling Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Stephen H. Fisher/Robbie Coltrane) in Paris, and soon after, Cardinal Jinette (Alun Armstrong), the head of the organization, sends him off him to Transylvania to help out the Valerious family.  They have worked for the organization for centuries, but it’s down to just Anna (Kate Beckinsale) and her brother Velkan (Will Kemp.)  If they are killed as well, then everyone in the Valerious family will live in Purgatory forever.  Unfortunately, Velkan is turned into a werewolf right before Van Helsing gets there, and it is down to just Anna now.  Van Helsing arrives, along with his gadget inventor and sidekick Friar Carl (David Wenham), to help Anna fight Count Vladislaus Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and his three vampire brides Aleera (Elena Anaya), Verona (Silvia Colloca), and Marishka (Josie Maran.)  Dracula was secretly working with Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) and his assistant Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) on his famous experiment of regenerating life, which resulted in the creation of Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley.)  Once the experiment was completed, Dracula turns on Frankenstein and kills him, but employs Igor as his assistant.  The Monster supposedly burns up in a windmill set ablaze angry villagers, as he did in the original 1931 Frankenstein movie, but Dracula knows better, and is trying to find him, because he is the key to bringing to life his thousands of undead children.  Anna isn’t too crazy about Van Helsing at first, especially during the times when he would try to kill her now wolfed out brother, but they grow to respect each other.  They find out that if they kill Dracula, all of the monsters that he created will die.  They just don’t know how to kill Dracula, who apparently won’t even die by wooden stake.  If they can kill Dracula before he can take out Anna, the Valerious family will all go to Heaven.


This is a very fun flick.  Coming in at two hours and twelve minutes, the movie hardly ever slows down from beginning to end.  Everyone in the movie, except for Jackman, overacts (especially Roxburgh), but I think that only adds to the fun of the movie.  No, despite their being monsters in the movie, it wasn’t scary, but I wasn’t expecting it to be.  Stephen Sommers, who directed the two non-scary but very enjoyable Mummy movies, directed this one.  He also wrote the screenplay, and changed around the various Universal Studios classic characters in order to make them hip and cool, which worked for me.  I didn’t go into this movie expecting historical accuracy.  Every movie containing the character of Van Helsing in the past has portrayed him as an old man, but unless Sean Connery had played the character, they had to pick a younger actor to play the part.  I’m guessing that they didn’t want to go that way since Connery had recently played a slightly similar character last year in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.


That brings me to its similarities to other films.  Most people will say that it is similar to League, but I like to compare it to the 1987 comedy/horror flick The Monster SquadLeague had a jumble of heroes, while Squad had a jumble of villains, like this movie.  Fortunately, I loved Squad.  Like the Mummy movies, I could also compare it to the Indiana Jones flicks, but I’d rather measure it up to the James Bond flicks.  This is mainly because of Friar Carl, who became the Q of this movie, and the very cool gadgets he came up with, like the rapid-fire crossbow.

If you are going to spend $8-$10 on a movie, you want to see a movie worth seeing on the big screen, and Van Helsing delivers.  It won’t win any Oscars (except maybe in technical categories, because the special effects are amazing), but that doesn’t make it a bad movie.  It is witty, entertaining, and just as good as the Mummy movies.  There is a spin-off TV show in the works planned for NBC called “Transylvania,” which takes place in the same world as Van Helsing (but won’t include any of the same characters.)  Since Sommers created it as well, it should also be fun, and I hope that NBC picks it up.  We need more movies and TV shows like this, not less!

Get the animated prequel to the movie:

Get the soundtrack score composed by Alan Silvestri:

Get the Vivendi Universal video game in three different formats:

Game Boy Advance:



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Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

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Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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