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This madcap monster melee is a fun, relentless, action-packed-roller-coaster ride of a movie that still delights.

I Revisited this tribute to the Universal monster-horror films of the 1930s-1940s last night, and it still holds up as an entertaining way to spend some time enjoying seasonal entertainment. The film’s setting is the late 19th century, making it a steampunk extravaganza rich in visual imagery.

The movie, written and directed by Stephen Sommers, has been justifiably labeled as an over-the-top CGI fest. I am one of those that doesn’t have an issue with this.

The film begins in black and white, confirming its tribute to the early 20th century classics. We meet Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and Frankenstein in the latter’s castle laboratory, beautifully depicted in all its 19th-century splendor. He has just succeeded in his attempt to bring life to his creation. In this case, the Monster (Schuler Hensley) gets nicely portrayed as more of a technological marvel and more cyborg-like in appearance. There are openings in his head and heart that reveal his inner workings to be electronic, portrayed in the form of electrical currents spanning gaps in his hardware. Dracula betrays and kills the inventor immediately. He has other plans for the monster in regards to creating an army of vampire followers. Also present is Igor (Kevin J O’Connor), Dracula’s confederate in the betrayal, who we see more of later in the film

In the next scene, we meet the titular character Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), and all the locations that follow are vibrant, full color. He is on a mission to end the violent, destructive habits of a gigantic CGI version of Mr. Hyde, who has been out of control and indulging his violent tendencies across Europe. The confrontation is a forecast of what to expect from the rest of the film. It’s a spectacular battle that rages across Rome’s rooftops and doesn’t end well for Hyde.

What I enjoy a great deal about the approach this film takes, among other things, is a combination of the setting combined with the take on Jackman’s character. He is a sort of combination 19th century James Bond (undoubtedly with a license to kill) and Indiana Jones. His appearance in a long black leather coat and a big-brimmed hat adds to this caricature of the film’s protagonist. The whole movie is almost cartoon-like., which I liked a lot.

We next find out he’s a sort of a gun for hire that works for a secretive combined organization of religious orders that intervene in world matters when it’s decided action is needed. It also gets revealed Van Helsing has amnesia. At this point, we meet the friar Carl (David Wenham), who plays a significant role in the movie in Van Helsing’s sidekick.  He’s there for support and weaponry. He’s an inventor and technician, a kind of “Q” to Jackman’s Bond.

Van Helsing receives an assignment about Dracula and assists in the redemption of a specific family’s bloodline. The scene shifts to Transylvania (where else?), where Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) and her brother Velkan attempt to capture a local nuisance in the form of a werewolf. Things go wrong, and Velkan appears to get killed by the creature as they fall off a very steep and high cliff. There seems to be no shortage of steep, high ridges in the region.

Next, when Van Helsing and Carl arrive in the same Transylvanian village where Anna and Velkan are from, they are met by a hostile and threatening crowd; Anna prevents their arrival from turning violent. Anna is smoking hot, dressed in skintight pants, knee-high boots, and a leather corset that all help accentuate her womanly features. Coincidently, at this point, the gloomy village gets attacked by  Dracula’s brides. (Silvia Colloca, Josie Maran, Elena Anaya) The three vampire women are formidable and challenging opponents who can transform into bat-like creatures with human female features at will. When the sun makes a brief appearance, they vanish, but they immediately return when the clouds again cover the sun. The three brides come close to stealing the show and have a  great deal of screen time, which increases the movie’s enjoyment. Upon their arrival, bedlam ensues, and the village gets thrown into chaos. The scene is a promise of the almost relentless action that follows. Van Helsing kills one of the troublesome trios by dipping his machine gun like a crossbow in holy water. This battle is the first scene in which we see another appealing aspect of the film. The steampunk tech used by Van Helsing is a delightful addition to the story. He has more gadgets than James Bond, and they save his ass on multiple occasions. A convenient assortment of toys.

So the story continues to unfold, and there are twists and turns. Some are more surprising than others, but the plethora of storylines almost magically end up in a neatly woven and satisfying conclusion. It’s a  story I enjoyed, which always helps. A fun movie, well worth watching again, and although it’s hard to take the melodrama seriously,  Overall, van Helsing is an enjoyable action-packed guilty pleasure of a tribute to the monster classics of the past with the addition of a few good laughs. It’s acceptably good, silly, Halloween fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Score
C

By Craig Suide

A genuine (OCD) enthusiast of Sci-FI and fantasy. Addicted to stories. a life-long fan of movies, TV, and pop culture in general. Purchased first comic book at age five, and never stopped. Began reading a lot early on, and discovered ancient mythology, and began reading science fiction around the same time. Made first attempts at writing genre fiction around age 12 Freelance writer for Sci-Fi Nerd (Facebook), retired professional gourmet chef. ex-musician, and illustrator

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