Van Helsing (2004)
Today, I venture into the strange and often incoherent world of Van Helsing. It really tries to be a send up of all the old Hollywood monster movies, but it ends up being a thinly veiled excuse to get Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and Hugh Jackman in a movie. (Good thing for director/writer Stephen Sommers there are easily amused people like me who have been waiting for an excuse to get Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and Hugh Jackman in a movie!) Honestly, this movie is hard to determine as good or bad for the simple reason that most of the good or interesting things about it are also the things that make you laugh at it, not with it.
If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s the gist: Van Helsing (the aforementioned Hugh Jackman), amnesiac monster-slayer for the Catholic church, goes to Transylvania to aid the lovely Anna Valerious (the not aforementioned Kate Beckinsale) in her family’s long quest to defeat Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) who might have the key to ultimate power: Frankenstein’s monster. There you go.
To add an interesting layer plot, Dracula’s ace in the whole is the veritable army of mostly dead children he conceived over the centuries with his three undead wives (yeah, I know that makes no sense at all, but just go with it). Since the brood is life-less, Dracula hopes that Frankenstein’s “dead but living” monster could be the power source to finally give life to his offspring. Now, I could get into the speculative science of the physical potential for vampire reproduction but that would make this a Twilight article and I haven’t gained enough trust for that yet. Long story short, as enticing as it is to think of a creepy vampire-baby horde ravaging a village, it’s also actually laughable. Especially when said vamp-baby runs out of steam like it does in the movie and just explodes in someone’s face (I’m not kidding, this happens). That’s not just funny in an entertaining way; it’s funny in a “that is actually just ridiculous” kind of way.
Something else that frustrates but intrigues me about this movie are the comments Dracula makes about knowing Van Helsing, but knowing him as “Gabriel” in a past life that Van H can’t remember. It’s this little tease throughout the entire movie, and seems like it could tie in the whole why is Van Helsing working for the Church/origins of Dracula in one fell swoop. So what happens? Van Helsing winds up ending the hell out of Dracula in computer generated glory without one shred of an answer. It’s infuriating! All that and there’s no pay off. You have to wonder if that was intentionally left out to be answered in a sequel or if no one took into account how annoying leaving it out would be. Unfortunately, both answers are equally sad and neither gives me any comfort any time I watch the movie.
But despite these problems, eh, more like foibles, Van Helsing is a benign adventure movie brought to you by the king of benign adventure movies. But is that really such a bad thing on a rainy day? I don’t think so. It really is a fun movie giving you a good albeit really random excuse to see all of those classic movie monsters in one big, irresponsible movie. It does only as much as you would expect from it but it does, if at times unintentionally, entertain.
- Van Helsing is tricky. If it’s up your alley, it’s “The worst kind of bad”, however, if the thought of the Wolf-Man, Frankenstein’s monster, and Dracula in one movie makes your skin crawl, then “It’s a trap!”