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Van Helsing (2004): A Review

Van Helsing

The Spectacular Adventures of Van Helsing

Van Helsing is an action adventure horror film featuring many Universal monsters from Dracula to werewolves and Frankenstein’s monster. The film was released in 2004 and was directed by Stephen Sommers, who worked on two installments of The Mummy trilogy. His style of paying homage to the classics while bringing new aspects returns in spades for this film.

Van Helsing was one of the first major re-imaginings of Universal’s classic gothic horror icons after the first two The Mummy films. Because so much new media was established for the Universal monsters, many things were added to the monster’s abilities from Dracula transforming into a monster to the werewolves looking more wolf-like compared to the classic film. Van Helsing feels like a live action adaptation to the gothic horror video game franchise Castlevania, another setting with a powerful Dracula and group of warriors that oppose him and his monstrous horde.

The film follows the journey of Van Helsing, portrayed by Hugh Jackman, who is a monster hunting agent of the Holy Order that has faced countless monsters for centuries. After a chaotic clash with Mr. Hyde, Van Helsing is sent to Romania to confront the powerful Dracula and his horde of monsters before the last members of the Valerius family perish in the struggle. The movie then explores Van Helsing’s mysterious past as he battles many classic horror monsters.

The character Van Helsing is loosely based on Abraham Van Helsing from the Dracula novel. Instead of being an accomplished doctor, He was a skilled monster hunter that tackled all kinds of threats. He also appears younger and throughout the film it’s believed that he is connected to Dracula and their ancient history as the “left hand” of God. These mysteries establish a lot of history in the film that can lend itself to creative freedom for the story.

Van Helsing

Van Helsing has excellent creature design and portrayal. The three werewolves shown in the film are all uniquely designed and portrayed viciously. Their transformations under the full moon are shown to be quick and brutal. Frankenstein’s monster is a neat blend between the classic Boris Karlof and the literary description with mechanical bits. Dracula is charismatic, carrying a lot of flair in his appearances and can shift between elegant and monstrous in one scene. All the creatures have personality and feel like a well-made tribute to their original incarnations, modernizing the monsters in a new way.

Like many films made in the early 2000s, Van Helsing jumped for some great lengths and ideas but fell flat on certain parts of the execution. The CGI effects are extravagant and due to the trends back then the action sequences in some moments became dated over time. Several shots in the film show these examples from the final battle to the carriage chase. One final negative is that ultimately there’s inconsistent pacing in the middle of the film with the character relationships. The positives in the film include beautiful gothic set designs, thrilling set pieces and a musical track that brings more of the epic scale to Van Helsing’s adventure.

The rush to resolve everything by the climax probably led to no further sequels being made. One spin off is an animated prequel that follows Van Helsing pursuing Mr Hyde and the video game adaptation follows the film plot but expands on backstory. Despite the flaws and missing opportunities, Van Helsing is one of the best modern adaptations of the Universal Monsters that brings the iconic creatures together in a crossover. The film is a fun rental for casual viewing and is an enthusiastic must watch for lovers of gothic horror and action adventure.

Van Helsing

Van Helsing (2004) Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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An enthusiast of Fantasy and Sci-Fi. I loved reading about the stories and worlds of video games and movies and writing on a multitude of subjects, from lists to reviews.