Van Helsing (2004)
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Review Date: May 05, 2004
Director: Stephen Sommers
Writer: Stephen Sommers
Producers: Stephen Sommers, Bob Ducsay
Hugh Jackman
Kate Beckinsale
Richard Roxburgh
A monster hunter named Van Helsing is appointed by the Vatican to hunt down the legendary figure of Dracula before he sets up greater shop around Transylvania. Helsing hooks up with an ass-kicking Transylvaniate with a great rump but soon realizes that he's actually up against a variety of monsters including Dracul's three lovely ass-kicking wives (the man's apparently a Mormon), Dr. Frankenstein's pieced-together monster and a Wolfman. A monster-kicking adventure of epic proportions ensues...
VAN HELSING gets 3 F's for Fun Fuckin' Film! If you're looking for a brainless, mile-a-minute summer monster movie jam-packed with action scenes, hot chicks, wild beasts, midgets who look like Ewoks, over-actors, a pulse-pounding score, laughs and adventures up the wazoo, line up for this film today and enjoy the gratuitous love of unadulterated campy fun created by THE MUMMY's Stephen Sommers (loved the creepy final end credits too...nice touch). If you're going into this picture expecting an intricate characterization of the "real" Van Helsing, flawless special effects, deeper insight into the monsters, a credible romance and believable action sequences, please stay home and don't bother seeing it solely for the purposes of complaining about those very things afterwards. It's not that kind of movie! Yes, the film has its issues including editing choppiness, dialogue that sounds goofy at times, a very cheesy last scene (not "cheesy-fun"..."cheesy-cheesy") and a definite overuse of CGI (although not as bad as I had expected from the horrid examples they used in the film's trailer), but it knows what it wants to be and it delivers complete balls-onto-your-walls in terms of non-stop monster clashes, action and visceral entertainment. If that's what you look for in your summer blockbuster, I don't think you'll be too disappointed in this film, which also features a gang of characters who each bring something interesting to the table, particularly the monsters.

I won't mention the "surprise cameo monster" that starts off the film, but its battle with Helsing was one of the cooler ones in the flick, as was that creature's special effects. Very believable and HULK-like. I'd heard horrible word of mouth on Richard Roxburgh's work as Dracula here, but despite turning me off a little at first, I got into this guy's over-the-topness and actually loved him by the end. The man was having a blast in the role and I grooved on that. The Wolfman was also fun in his own "destroy-all-things-moving" kinda way (great transformations too...you rip that skin off, boyee!), and Frankenstein managed to provide the monsters with a bit of heart and "gray area". Again, from the film's trailer, I was fully expecting to hate Dracula's 3 brides, but they kicked my ass as well. For one, they're gorgeous as shit (especially the cutey-pie redhead with the luscious cans...call me!) and for two, they're friggin' vicious and I dig that in vampire chicks (someone help me, please). The film does suffer from an overabundance of CGI though (it really could have done without those idiotic "baby bat" concoctions). I wish Sommers would rely less on computers for a lot of his stuff, but alas, I suppose that's part of the game nowadays. As for the non-monster actors, Jackman was decent, but to be honest, not mind-blowing. He almost seemed to be "holding back" on his character, and despite a couple of decent one-liners, floated through the part. Kate Beckinsale was acting with her poofy hair, her flawless make-up, her high heel boots (for better to kick you with!) and her candy-apple-bottom, but she managed to make her grinding accent work by the end as well, so props to her on that.

Helsing's sidekick also wasn't as annoying as I would have thought (although most of his stuff was hit-and-miss), but I would have liked to have seen more of Sommers' trademark quipper, Kevin J. O'Connor, who played the underutilized Igor here and delivered one of the film's funnier lines ("Yes, I can.") In fact, I was surprised to find myself laughing at several of the movie's "wink-wink" one-liners, particularly the brilliant retort that Beckinsale's character gives to one of the brides as she begins to provide her with an explanation of why she's about to kill her. Classic. But in the end, this film is basically just a bunch of action set pieces strung together by two-minute "exposition scenes" that flimsily tie together some of the film's question marks (if that really matters to you in a film featuring a man with a machine-gunned bow & arrow chasing down legendary monsters) and most of them are memorable and exciting enough to recommend. Nobody is going to write a thesis on this film's creative narrative choices or the force of its characterizations (although I gotta admit, I dug what they did to Jackman's character in the end...made it that much more fun), but as I mentioned in the first part of my review, you shouldn't be going into a movie like this if that's what you're looking for in the first place. This is the kind of movie in which people are swinging from castle to castle at a million clips an hour, while someone else throws them something as they pass and they catch it...lickity split! If you're gonna go home and complain about the "realism" of that, again I say...stay home and rent THE REMAINS OF THE DAY and leave the rest of us to have a blast with VAN HELSING! This movie is not scary or tight in narrative, but it is fun, and despite its problems, extremely aware of the main factor that one should count on in any summer blockbuster: the ride.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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