Movie review

Van Helsing
Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard
Roxbrough, David Wenham, Will Kemp

Director : Stephen Sommers

Van HelsingWell this is a tough but short one to write. Let's give you the tissue paper thin plot first: Dracula needs to have Frankenstein's Monster's body so that he can shove lightning through it and zap his pod-grown children (they look like testicles!) and create an army. He has captured The Wolf Man - well, a werewolf - and is using him to taunt Gabriel Van Helsing who is hunting him down. Throw in a gypsy princess who is trying to save her brother (the werewolf) and kill Dracula as well, and there you have the plot for the latest CGI-infested tripe doled out by Hollywood for this summer.

I really wanted to like this film. I love the old Universal horror movies; I grew up with them on late night TV and The Wolf Man was always a personal favourite. It's a pity that writer and director Stephen Sommers - who did an excellent job with The Mummy films - was allowed to sink his teeth into the other horror icons that had not been seen on screen together since Abbot And Costello Meet Frankenstein years ago. Well, in The Monster Squad they were together, but no one has seen or remembers that apart from me . . . In short, Van Helsing really sucks!
    The opening sequence that sets the story up has Dracula working with Dr Frankenstein for mutual benefit, but when the Monster awakes he finds that Drac has killed his master, so he grabs the dead doctor and runs away, pursued of course by angry villagers, led by one who looks exactly like Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show! This is shot by Sommers in black and white, and tries but fails to pay homage to the original films, coming across more like Tim Burton's Ed Wood than anything truly scary.
    Herein is where the problem lies - this film tries to be too many things at once. It cannot decide if it's campy horror, scary horror, action adventure, stupid comedy (the jokes are awful) or a kids' film, and as it's 12a rated you can add censor-dodging to the schizophrenic feel.
    The accents are crap - Kate Beckinsale as the Romanian gypsy princess looks like she wants to escape the movie, and Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing gets hardly any lines of dialogue, but at least looks the part (well apart from his girly long hair). Special mention should go to Richard Roxbrough as Dracula. He is so shit in this film that I wanted to leap onto the screen and stake him myself. His accent is pathetic, he comes across like he is Wayne Hussey from goth band The Mission (only not as good) and he is so camp you would think that Kenneth Williams had possessed him. Based on this effort, I hope he never works in film again. The only actor who manages to do well in Van Helsing is Shuler Hensley as Frankenstein's Monster. His performance gives the creature real pathos and believability.

Some of the set pieces are great to watch, but at 2 hours 5 minutes this is 30 minutes too long. Action scene after action scene is so boring to watch, and Hollywood has still not learnt that werewolves should be done with real animatronics with real hair. CGI ones look crap, as do CGI giant Dracula half-bats. Even Coppola knew this when he made his version of the vamp.
    So, see Van Helsing if you do not have to pay, every other film in the cinema is sold out and you have nothing better to do. At all. Period.

:: Mark Cappuccio

Go to top of page
Latest articles

Alone in the dark: Buffy The Vampire Slayer bows out in style with the Season Seven DVD Collection.

Johnny Knoxville plays him in the movie Grand Theft Parsons, but counterculture speaks to the man himself: Phil Kaufman interviewed.