Van Helsing (2004)

reviewed by
Bob Bloom


VAN HELSING (2004) 2 stars out of 4. Starring Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale,

Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley, Elena Anaya, Will Kemp, Kevin

J. O'Connor and Alun Armstrong. Written and directed by Stephen Sommers. Rated

PG-13.

I wanted to like Van Helsing. Being a big fan of the Universal horror films of

the 1930s and '40s, I realized that the creatures I would be viewing in Stephen

Sommers' new feature would not be my dear, old friends from Chiller Theatre.

Unfortunately, Sommers must have been watching a different channel when the

old Universals aired because he left out the main ingredient that propelled

those now quaint films -- atmosphere.

Van Helsing isn't so much a horror film as is it a Universal theme park

attraction. It provides thrills and goosebumps, but fails to envelope you in

that shroud of fear like any good film from the genre.

Actually, the movie begins on a promising note. Filmed in black and white, the

feature opens with the usual mob of torch-carrying villagers chasing

Frankenstein's creature to a windmill then burning it down around him.

From that point, the movie, too, generally goes up in flames.

In the original Dracula, Van Helsing was a man of science who used his brain

to defeat the vampire.

In Van Helsing, he's a strapping, young hunk -- part James Bond, part Indiana

Jones -- who uses an array of weapons and gadgets to fight evil.

It's all preposterous nonsense that is more insult than tribute to those grand

old creatures of the night.

Van Helsing isn't so much a movie as is it a $100 million-plus video game. Its

Transylvania looks more like an arcade or home computer screen. It's cold and

flavorless. Even an old Universal soundstage exhibited more life and realism.

The problem also extends to the most part to the creatures. Too much reliance

on CGI and computer tricks reduce the fear quotient to nearly nil.

Richard Roxburgh acts more like a spoiled, flamboyant rock star than a

menacing vampire. He's about as frightening as an insurance agent.

On the other hand, Shuler Hensley adds a strong dose of pathos to his

Creature, who only wants to be accepted by mankind, instead of being hunted and

exploited.

As in the original films, Will Kemp's Velken becomes a werewolf not of his own

choice, but by being bitten battling another lycanthrope.

As for Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing, he tries to bring some drama and mystery to

his character, using that age-old dodge of remembering nothing of his past.

However, he is continually overwhelmed by the demands of the special effects

department and the arsenal he continually lugs around.

Kate Beckinsale grimly marches through the film, a one-dimensional warrior

princess interested only in killing the undead.

Van Helsing, owes more to such recent features as The League of Extraordinary

Gentlemen, then its Universal ancestors. The movie is more theme park coming

attraction than motion picture.

Bob Bloom is the film critic at the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, Ind. He

can be reached by e-mail at bbloom@journalandcourier.com or at

bob@bloomink.com. Bloom's reviews also can be found at the Journal and Courier

Web site: www.jconline.com

Other reviews by Bloom can be found at the Rottentomatoes Web site:

www.rottentomatoes.com or at the Internet Movie Database Web site:

www.imdb.com/M/reviews_by?Bob+Bloom

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X-RT-RatingText: 2/4

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