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Van Helsing
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Van Helsing (2004)

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Plot Summary:
"Set in the late 19th century, monster hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Jackman) is summoned to a mysterious land in East Europe to vanquish evil forces... evil forces with names like Count Dracula (Roxburgh), the Wolf Man (Kemp), and Frankenstein's Monster (Hensley). Assisting him once he gets there is Anna (Beckinsale), the heir of a long-running family committed to hunting down and destroying Dracula. (Anaya, Colloca and Maran play Dracula's brides; Wenham plays a friar, Carl, who escorts Van Helsing through the dangerous wilderness) The movie gets its start as Dr. Van Helsing is hunting down a mysterious monster called Mr. Hyde who has some sort of tie to a chemist, Dr. Jekyll."


Review by
Ryan McDonald
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@horrorasylum
Review Date: 20 June 2005 My Rating: out of 5

 

Be warned, folks, a movie hasn't angered me this much since 'The Village'. In the first of a triple-threat of Aussie casting, Hugh Jackman plays Abraham Van Helsing, hired as a killer by the Vatican in the late 19th Century to do away with Dracula (Richard Roxburgh- bringing nothing to the part, not even a convincing sneer) and whatever other horror movie monsters Stephen Sommers (whose 'The Mummy' was pitiful, but the sequel was surprisingly fun) wanted to degrade for the sake of a few bucks ( Faust ). I'm not even sure if this quite qualifies for a horror movie even, it's like 'Indiana Jones' meets 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' (which wasn't nearly as bad as I'd heard).

Kate Beckinsale plays...um...some tough Transylvanian chick, apparently a fellow vampire hunter...and she has a brother (who has...issues), but that's about it for character development. Roxburgh is woefully cast as Dracula, it's almost as though I was watching Bela Lugosi in his Ed Wood period (and you know what that means) trying to imitate Max Schreck's unforgettable work in 'Nosferatu'. Where's the refinement, the sensuality, the eeeevil and yes, the Count-like behaviour (aristocratic and deadly serious) of Christopher Lee (whose Dracula was animalistic in spurts, admittedly), the best of the Dracula's.

And don't get me started on Frankenstein's Monster, who looks even less convincing than the one on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and was that Mr. Hyde? Then why was he hanging out in Quasimodo's pad? He's an MGM ringer anyway. Kevin J. O'Connor seems born to play Dracula's servant Igor (umm, where's Renfield? Fritz? Frau Blucher?...er...scratch that last one), but the appalling makeup job on him, resembling the awful stuff they used on 'Buffy', ruins any chances the poor guy had at credibility here, just as he was annoying in 'The Mummy', I might add.

The film is disastrously overlong, incoherent (in its foolish attempts to bring all the monsters together in one film), and overall it comes across as though Sommers and co had gone to make a tribute to the Universal horror franchise...without ever having seen any of the films (I think Jackman must've, he spends most of the film fighting to hide his embarrassment, and the rest of the time searching for his character arc. He loses both battles admirably).

The opening sequence in black & white had its moments (until Dracula showed up), thanks to an actor who looked quite a bit like Colin Clive, but aside from that, David Wenham (in a poorly written role, a sort of comic relief Q), the only things worthy of praise are the nice cinematography, and an excellent score by Alan Silvestri, who continues to thankfully make his work on the terrible 'Quick and the Dead' (boy, am I in a bad mood or what?) a distant memory.

OVERALL SUMMARY
What can you say about a film even Hugh Jackman can't save? Woefully misguided, overlong, undernourished, and almost funny...in the wrong way. And why did those vampire chicks have no nipples? That's just wrong, man.



Reviewer: Andrew Rowat @horrorasylum
Location:Surrey, UK
Review Date: 28 July 2004 My Rating: out of 5

Van Helsing is a bad movie. Forget whether it works as a horror film (which it doesn't), this is just a terrible hollywood movie. Universal Studios parades the fact that they have the rights to these classic characters without providing them a movie of any substance or value. Instead, we get an expensive kid's action movie full of cheesy one-liners and lacking any real horror.

I was initially excited at the spectacle of seeing Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman and Mr Hyde doing battle with Hugh Jackman, adopting the role as Van Helsing. It suddenly went pear-shaped. The main plot is something about Dracula subcontracting Dr Frankenstein to reanimate the dead, so that he can have babies with his undead brides. Surely he should have gone on the IVF waiting list like everyone else. Only Dracula's nemesis, Van Helsing, can stop him from unleashing these vampire babies on the world.

Hugh Jackman plays the hollywood-hero-by-numbers, he has none of the animal presence he displayed playing Wolverine in Xmen. He just plays a typical brooding hero, partial to spinning one-liners while saving the day. He is joined by Anna Valera, a girl-power vampire-hunter with an accent so bad it almost tops Keanu Reeves's 'english' performance in Bram Stoker's Dracula. These cardboard cut-out protagonists evoke no sympathy from the audience. If they had been made more credible it may have worked, but then there are other factors hampering the quality of this picture.

The action scenes are unbelievable, not in a superlative good way - just plain unbelievable. At one point Van Helsing swings through a vampire's ballroom doing an elaborate somersault before rescuing Anna from Dracula's clutches. This looks CGI through and through. It would be hokey in a music video, let alone in a movie trying to engage you. The animal transformations also have the artifice of CGI painted all over them, what ever happened to the legacy of Rick Baker? His SFX makeup designs on An American Werewolf In London are still convincingly painful. The lycanthrope in Van Helsing had none of that wolf's realism.

Also, the Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's novel was not a hollywood hunk. The movie would have been better served if it gave up its action movie aspirations and concentrated on offering up a good story, perhaps showcasing the literary character for the old eccentric doctor he was. My main gripe with this movie was the portrayal of Dracula. Richard Roxburg was good in Moulin Rouge as the snivelling lech, The Duke, but Count Dracula he ain't! The director ought to have payed respect to one of cinema's greatest horror icons. This Dracula has none of the violence of Christopher Lee or sexual tension of Gary Oldman, he's just unconvincing. Dracula has no presence whatsoever. He looks like a spoilt goth. And the script makes it that he has no interest in mortal virgins, he is quite content with his undead bevvy of babes. He is hardly the human parasite he once was.

The vampire brides are suitably alluring and are always fun whenever onscreen. But this is insufficient, the movie needed to scary and not in such a rush to fulfil its hollywood criteria.

OVERALL SUMMARY
Essentially this is a poor movie that stands on the shoulders of the classics (ie Frankenstein, Dracula) but does them a disservice by producing an expensive, but hollow story for them. It never finds what made literature's finest horrors so memorably terrifying in the first place. It pinpointed the look of the horror film fittingly (full moons, Transylvanian castles etc) then it decided to a whack a substandard action film in there. Awful.



Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 08 May 2004 My Rating: out of 5

Regular readers will know that I am not the biggest fan of Blockbuster movies, nevertheless, I have to say that I quite enjoyed this!!

Everyone knows what to expect and that is what you get but Stephen Sommers handled Universal's favourite horror characters with respect.

I won't say anything about the story, as I knew nothing going into this (I was sceptical to the film actually having a story) and that is perhaps why I enjoyed it.

The film starts with a knowing smile as we are treated to a clever prologue that sets the scene perfectly whilst filling out the requisite cliches.

The film has a two hour running time, but moves so quickly that you don't even notice, and this also helps with viewers looking for moments of poor CGI and wire work.

Hugh Jackman is fine in the lead role although I could detect a slight problem with his accent and Kate Beckinsale was a revelation. I thought she sucked in 'Underworld' (no pun intended) but she was smart sexy and fearless here and her accent was amazing too.

The only flaws that I can really point out are the annoying sidekick who is provided only to make stupid jokes and act like a tit to provide comic relief for the 8 year olds who see it with their mum and dad, the bad dialogue, and the fact that Dracula kind of annoyed me too as previous actors have handled the character much better. The brides were much better and sexier than the Count and he's supposed to have power.

OVERALL SUMMARY
In the end I was surprised at how much I liked Van Helsing. It's two hours of non stop action and special effects but it's two hours well spent and it's going to make a fortune regardless of anyone's opinion.




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