Last year I found at Big Lots the collector’s edition DVD of Van Helsing. Came in a brown box, had a couple of extra discs that included some of the original Universal Monsters movies. It was, I think, five dollars, and since I hadn’t seen Van Helsing since the weekend it came out, I picked it up.
I didn’t like Van Helsing when it came out. I called it, at the time, “a stupid fucking piece of shit,” a judgment that several of my friends called unnecessarily harsh. At the time, I worked for EB Games, we had to push the living hell out of the Van Helsing tie-in game, and one of my friend suggested that it was because of that experience (the game, frankly, was terrible, and trying to sell a godawful game sapped one’s soul) that I hated the movie. Another suggested that my love of the Universal Monsters movies should have forgiven Van Helsing‘s sins; “Allyn, they’re not very good movies.”
Maybe time would make a difference. Maybe Van Helsing wasn’t really that bad.
This was what I thought, anyway, as I bought the collector’s edition.
No. Van Helsing really was that bad. Time wasn’t kind to it at all.
There are things about Van Helsing that I like. There are a few scenes that I think, on their own and placed in a different movie, are actually interesting and have potential. I like Van Helsing‘s version of the Frankenstein Monster.
But the overall effect of the movie is unremitting stupidity. (The werewolf/full moon thing always bugged me.) To me, Van Helsing exists to look pretty. It has no existence beyond that.
Also, Richard Roxburgh is, by far, one of the worst screen Draculas ever. Yes, even worse than Leslie Nielson. (Roxburgh is, I believe, the only actor to portray Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, and Dracula on screen.)
The film of Van Helsing‘s ilk that I do enjoy is LXG. This mystifies many people, including the friends cited above, because LXG (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that is) is reputed to be an even dumber film than Van Helsing. I can’t even say I like LXG for the Alan Moore factor; I’m indifferent at best to the League comics. (For that matter, LXG has as much in common with its source material as From Hell; outside of the names of characters and basic relationships between them, the films go off in their own directions.) I just come away from LXG feeling entertained; the character arcs and the narrative arcs generally work for me in ways that Van Helsing‘s don’t, though anything involving the Nautilus is as absurd as anything involving Dracula’s magic realm in Van Helsing.
One last thing on LXG. I see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows as LXG done better — or done right. Besides sharing a villain — Professor Moriarty — the films share the villain’s plot — upset the balance of power in Europe to tip the Great Powers toward a world war and then profit by selling both sides technologically advanced munitions. That was something that struck me several months ago, and I was amused by it.
Anyway. Van Helsing. Yes. A deeply stupid film.
Though if a Hollywood producer came to me and said, “Van Helsing 2 — go,” I know what my pitch would be.