Universal’s Van Helsing hits theaters this Friday and the reviews that have been blasting on the web have been quite mixed. Inside you’ll find a fairly positive review for Stephen Sommers newest moster flick, which stars Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman, by B-D member Klownzilla…
Title: Van Helsing 2004
Director: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale
Review by Klownzilla: Years after viewing Universal’s classic monster films, it was inevitable that someday these horror icons of the golden age would return to the big screen in an attempt by Universal to cash in big. That day has come and the result was rather enjoyable, but it just doesn’t achieve the impact the original films left. Stephen Sommers pays tribute to the archaic movies in small ways and seems to show more of an influence towards Castlevania. Not only that, but I caught a slew of Fright Night references throughout. While Van Helsing is a fun popcorn flick, I doubt it will receive the status of being a classic.
In the wonderfully executed opening sequence, we find Dr. Frankenstein in his lab bringing the monster to life. However at his moment of success, he’s rudely interrupted by the angry villagers and gets a visit from the snide, power-hungry Count Dracula. Things don’t exactly go the Doc’s way when he attempts to kill Dracula (what the hell was he thinking?) for learning of his evil intentions for the monster. Frankenstein’s monster flees and is seemingly destroyed in a windmill and this causes Dracula and his brides to believe they have lost something of great value. In Paris, Van Helsing is tracking down the gigantic murderer known as Mr. Hyde (who’s voiced greatly by Robbie Coltrane) and after a fun battle, Van Helsing’s once again gotten himself in a real fix. After reporting to his superiors, he learns he must go on a mission to help the remaing members of a burdened family vanquish the forces of evil.
Hugh Jackman does his best at the role. Sure he has all of the stunt and fight experience from the X-Men films, but Wolverine has made him hard to view as other characters, such as Gabe Van Helsing. He should’ve had more of an accent, too. Kate Beckinsale is lucious as Anna Valerius and makes great eye candy. She also does well with the Romanian accent. Richard Roxburgh chews the scenery whenever he has the chance and is truly one over-the-top vampire who won’t be remembered. Shuler Hensley is one of the most likeable Frankenstein monsters on film. Through all those layers of prosthetics, he’s still able to generate pathos. The make-up he has is awesome, but a little too advanced for the time period. David Wenham as the friar Carl is the comic relief with knowledge on monsters. He was okay. Kevin J. O’Connor is probably the only cast member with an appreciation for the classic Universal films. He recreates the same broken-neck appearance and voice of Bela Lugosi in Son of Frankenstein. Will Kemp was bland as Velkan. They should’ve cast me as the Wolfman. I would’ve played the part with truth! Elena Anaya is the bride with the most screen time. She reminded me a lot of the vampirized Amanda Bearse in Fright Night, especially with that red hair.
The CGI was much over-done, but some of it is likeable, such as the werewolves. However, those beasts would have been so much better as actors in suits or big puppeted animatronics. My only qualm with the wolves’ CG is that they move way too fast and they almost fly around. These are several hundred-pound creatures who should have been a little slower with movements. Mr. Hyde was brilliant in the small screen time he had. He’s like a giant thug with the actions of an ape. Plus, Coltrane’s vocals effectively made him comical and evil at the same time. The Dracula Hellbeast was cool the first couple of times, but in the end it was too much. I liked how the brides were like harpies instead of being a large, demonic bat like Drac was. The setting of Transylvania was tolerable. It gives you the Tim Burton vibe similar in Sleepy Hollow. I particuarly liked the graveyards.
In all, I had a good time. It’s a monster movie for cryin’ out loud! They’re supposed to be fun. I wish Stephen Sommers had stuck to one thing instead of making a movie of amalgamated genres. The Misfits’ rendition of “Monster Mash” would have done well in the end credits, but I suppose their song is more deserving of a film that’s more nostalgic.
7 out of 10 skulls.