I don’t like Van Helsing because it’s a quality horror, because it isn’t one. Van Helsing falls far more into action-adventure and fantasy. The reason I like this film is because it’s a non-stop homage to the classic Universal horror films, with an MGM as well. My favorite parts of this film are in fact the monsters which range from the wolf man to Dracula to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My favorite monster in this film’s roster is undoubtedly Frankenstein’s Monster. Van Helsing was originally planned to be the first film in a series starring Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing. Though poor box office performance killed that, something makes me more than a little sad.
The film opens with the classic scene of the peasants with pitchforks storming Castle Frankenstein, on the eve of Dr. Frankenstein creating his monster (Shuler Hensley). After bringing it to life he’s double crossed by his benefactor Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). As now that he created life and made the key to Dracula’s plans and is no further use to him, is quickly killed off. The monster attacks Dracula, grabs Frankenstein’s body and flees to a nearby windmill. Where he’s followed by the mob which set fire to the windmill, causing it to collapse in on the monster. Much to Dracula and his wives dismay. Cut to a year later in Paris, the films titular hero Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) battling Mr. Hyde. The two battle, which of course ends with the death Mr. Hyde and by obvious extension Dr. Jekyll. Van Helsing flees the city and returns to the Vatican, where it revealed that he is a member of a religious order that hunts monsters. He’s sent to Transylvanian with his friar friend Carl (David Wenham) to help kill Dracula and save an ancient bloodline, who’s down to its final two members Velkan Vaerious (Will Kemp) and his sister Anna (Kate Beckinsale). We then see the pair fight Dracula’s Werewolf, ending with Velkan plunging off a cliff with the Werewolf to save his sister after an attempt to capture and kill the wolf goes sideways. As Helsing and Carl arrive in Transylvanian Anna is attacked by Dracula’s brides which leads to another battle and the death one of said brides. That night in her castle, Anna is attacked by a Werewolf, only to learn its her brother now cursed after his battle with the wolf. Helsing arrives and chases the Velkan, but is unable to kill him due to Anna’s interference. Helsing and Anna track Velkan to Frankenstein’s Castle, where they learn that Dracula and his wives plan to try and bring their still born children to life via Frankenstein’s science and use Velkan as a power source. Though he’s not strong enough and the creatures die shortly after they’re born. Unable to save Velkan Anna and Helsing flee the castle and take refuge in an old burned windmill, where the pair come across Frankenstein’s Monster. Who while looking monstrous, Van Helsing claims, evil does not rule him. They decided to take the monster to Rome to keep him safe after they’re seen by Velkan. Though nothing will stop Dracula from bringing his children to life…
There’s a lot I left out. A lot, which is one of Van Helsing’s problems. It just keeps throwing things at the audience, as if they stop even for a second they would completely lose our attention. Which does work to it’s benefit in places as you’re never really given time to question the plot holes and odd continuity errors.
Also I stated this film isn’t scary. Sure it’s rife with horror elements and homages to the horror films of old. But Van Helsing it’s self isn’t one. Which is ok and for all the flaws I do think this is an entertaining way to spend two hours. Though the CGI effects do make the film feel dated in places and as always practical effects would have been preferred.
The acting is pretty good, mostly where Hugh Jackman and Richard Roxburgh are concerned. Both are more than a little campy and at times blatantly over the top. But given the style of film and subject matter, it works well. Kate Beckensale also does a noteworthy job as other than her work in the Underworld film series, this is the movie I think of her when her films come up in conversation.
Final thoughts, I really like this movie. But as always I have to many problems with it to say I love it. I do consider it one of Hugh Jackmans better action films and is on my favorite of Kate Beckensale. The CGI effects are dated and the notable toned down gore, which is standard for PG-13 film, leaves something to be desired. 7/10