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Van Helsing (2004)

by on 2011/08/30

“Vampires, gargoyles, warlocks, they’re all the same – best when cooked well.”

* * *

Loud noises.  Swirling colours.  Explosions. Monsters. Jumping. Screaming. Even more monsters. Loud noises! Looouuuuud noises!

Van Helsing is all of the steam punk heroics and CGI action you can jab into your jaded eye sockets. Crammed with more villains than a gelatinous embryonic sack writhing with vampire progeny, Van Helsing gives us the ADHD versions of all of my favourite creatures: the Wolf Man, Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster.

Van Helsing is the Universal Horror mashup for the youtube generation. Here’s the recipe: take all of the legendary Universal Monsters, blend them into a chunky batter and then press them into eco-green, mega power Nutraloaf energy bars for maximum awesomenicity.

Ok, you guessed it. I didn’t exactly love Stephen Sommers-directed Van Helsing. Don’t get me wrong, there are things to recommend it. Hugh Jackman is solid as always, cutting an almost dashing figure despite his ridiculous hat. When he wasn’t wearing the hat, Hugh Jackman had to become shirtless and become shirtless again to vanquish evil. Apparently, evil hates bronzed pectorals.

David Wenham (300) plays the medieval super geek Friar Carl, Van Helsing’s sidekick. What can I say? I just love that guy’s voice.

Van Helsing also has the sublime Kate Beckinsale (Underworld) as the gypsy princess warrior lady Anna Valerious. She wears a corset and is good with a sword.

The Frankenstein monster was a novel take on the iconic creature, with swirling green power cells and a head that breaks into three convenient sections when knocked slightly.

Overall, some of the special effects were really good. Also some of the chase and fight scenes. Come to think of it, the movie was mostly chase and fight scenes.

You can’t say this movie was in any way slow …or quiet or introspective.

Yep, that’s all I’ve got.

Mostly, I thought Van Helsing was a breathlessly crowded, exhausting ordeal. There was too much of everything: every monster, every CGI trick in the book, every loud jarring sound effect known to audio engineers.

I’m now going to say something blasphemous here about the actress who gave us Underworld’s Selene. Kate looks sort of er, bad in this movie. I know, I know, if you haven’t seen Van Helsing, it sounds ludicrous. But it is true.

I suggest to you that the makeup department must have had it in for her. Terrible olive-coloured foundation was troweled on, thick burgundy lipstick was slathered over her lovely lips, and dark, angry eyebrows were stencilled in. Kate’s gorgeous English rose complexion was choking under all that terrible paint.

Van Helsing also boasts the worst Dracula in this month’s study of the greatest vampire. I’m sorry, Richard Roxburgh, I think you were miscast here. The wig department had it in for you. Kim Kardashian wants her hair back.

This Dracula has a hammy pseudo Eastern European accent, spastic mannerisms and all the menace of an angry investment analyst who has just spilled his Starbucks venti on his patent leather shoes.

To be fair to Roxburgh, this side-show spectacle probably demanded more ham (and cheese) than a lunch rush at a Subway franchise.

Van Helsing isn’t without its entertaining moments but I found myself longing for simpler days when flicks didn’t have to be so crowded, screaming and eye-popping.

Van Helsing does however stand alone in one way. It wins the prize for the most painful looking werewolf transformation ever committed to film. Watch it, you’ll see.

* * *

131 minutes

Rated PG-13 for monsters, monster and more monsters

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