Originally Published Tuesday 28th October 2008
Horror has so many classic characters, mostly from nineteenth century literature based on old folk stories and legends. Characters like Dracula and Frankenstein and the Wolfman are part of our collective culture, they have been with us all since childhood despite their horror credentials. When a film comes along that uses these characters it has to tread carefully so as not to stamp all over characters we know so well. When they made Van Helsing, they did not tread carefully. In fact, they wore size twelve Docs to make sure that when they stomped down on those favourite characters, they really kicked the shit out of them!
Van Helsing follows the adventures of Gabriel Van Helsing, a fixer for the church who hunts down monsters and ghouls on their behalf. He and his faithful comic-relief sidekick are despatched to Transylvania to stop Dracula from killing off the last in a line of a noble family and thereby prevent any of them from entering Heaven. Van Helsing makes his way to Transylvania just in time to save the last of that family, Anna Velarius from vampire attack. Anna and Van Helsing head off to tackle Dracula and learn of his dastardly plan to procreate using the same technology that Dr. Frankenstein used to bring his monster to life – a project that was financed by Dracula. Turns out that the secret to getting the process to work for vampire children is to pass electricity through a werewolf, which is handy as Anna’s brother has just become one. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing Van Helsing predictably saves the day after learning that he’s the left hand of God though Anna does get bumped off at the end.
It’s a little unfair to be overly critical of Van Helsing as it’s not a horror film in the truest sense, it’s really a kids movie that uses characters from horror stories. But as a kids film the film-makers didn’t really play to their audience very well as the film is overly long at over two hours and far too confusing. There is a lot going on in the film as nearly every horror character gets a look in as well as the top brass at the Vatican and in an attempt to give everyone enough screen time the film jumps around like white rappers in a St. Paddy’s day piss up. Van Helsing could have been a lot better if it was half an hour shorter and cut maybe two or three un-necessary monsters.
To be fair, there are a couple of things in Van Helsing that’re alright. And they both belonged to the red haired bride of Dracula!