Movies I Hate to Love: Van Helsing

Ever seen one of those movies that seems absolutely horrid on first viewing, but then, just like a fungus, it begins, quite unbidden, to grow on you? And the more you watch it, the worse it gets. It's worse by far than a train wreck in slow-motion. Everything in your head screams at you that you shouldn't like this movie, but somehow, something in it appeals to your hidden baboon instincts, and whoop, there it is.

So it is with me and monster-movie-gone-seriously-awry, Van Helsing.

(Forewarned is forearmed dept: Those who don't want the film spoiled for them, um Gottes Namen, cease reading now!)

I didn't like the movie at all when first I saw it in the theatre. Hugh Jackman's a good, solid actor, and he's manly and heroic and all. Kate Beckinsale is, truthfully, pretty damned sexy in her latter-19th-century corset and leather, and I like the Balkan accent. But the monsters? Richard Roxburgh is no Bela Lugosi, Shuler Hensley is a poor man's Frankenstein Monster, and there are too many werewolves in the story to ever truly get a bead on them.

On top of that, Van Helsing has been transformed into an All-Purpose Monster Hunter (TM) rather than the psychologist-cum-vampire killer he was in Stoker's book. He also turns out to be some immortal on-par with Dracula himself--"The Left Hand of God," Dracula calls him. And to add insult to injury, writer/director Stephen Sommers makes him into a 19th-Century James Bond, complete with secret organization backing him (combined with a modern 'deny everything' bent that makes him look to society at large as an enemy a la Spider-Man of sorts) and his trusty sidekick, Friar Carl (who, thank God, is not named Quentin, or Quincy, or anything else that would remind the audience of his true inspiration--James Bond's trusty Q, be it division or just Desmond Llwellyn). Also, there's the trivial matter of the first name change--from Stoker's Abraham (possibly an early Mary Sue character, since Stoker's first name was Bram, short for Abraham) to Sommers' Gabriel Van Helsing.

Then, we start getting into deeper crap, the likes of which one needs a shovel to sift through. Dracula and his brides have litters of dead kids that are hung in webby sacs that hang from the rafters of the castle proper. It's said during the film that hundreds of these born-dead nasties come from a single birthing. Dracula's purpose in the film is to use the techniques Victor Frankenstein perfected in his creation of the infamous Frankenstein Monster to bring his own children to life. Y'know, the vampire reproductive process, I thought, was generally a bite and a suck and that was that, but it appears something changes the fundamental human biology. My brain crashed and had to reboot when first I tried considering just how the whole vampire impregnation and birth process takes place. It's something I still can't wrap my head around. Steve (Sommers), if you're reading this, can you offer some insight? Or is this just one big plothole? Do all these mini-eggs just fly out her cooch and stick to the ceilings, growing and then somehow "dying on the vine," or do the Missus Draculas grow to have 200-foot wide wombs and expel all these puppies at once, or what? Help a brotha out.

Lastly, we get to that nasty problem of "only werewolf bites can kill Dracula," which is sure to be invalidated the moment Van Helsing 2 goes into heavy production. We've seen it all over the years in vampire films. Roses, stakes, silver, garlic, fire, decapitation, dismemberment, yadda yadda yadda. Can anything really deal the Prince of Darkness his final demise? It seemed an arbitrary, nonsensical addition to the canon. Werewolves. Ha! It might help if we knew how/if a relation between werewolf and vampire came to be, and why it only pertains to Dracula.

But now, I've finished watching the film for maybe the third or fourth time since getting it on DVD last Christmas. And you know something? I've fallen under its spell. I love the sets, I love Van Helsing himself (in a manly way, dammit), those vampiresses (Josie Maran and the one with red tresses are hot--the brunette, ehhh), and I even like the pitiable creature the Frankenstein Monster has become. (Although I still don't buy Carl's "I'm not supposed to help you!"/"I want to live!"/"All right!" spiel at the end.) I even like Dracula in this one (even though Max Schreck and Christopher Lee are still my favorites). The film's not remotely scary, but it's very atmospheric and that counts for a lot.

It's weird fun and I hate myself for loving this flick. In a different way than hating Sommers' two-and-a-half Mummy flicks. I hate it so much that I bought the single-disc release at Best Buy, took the bonus disc out of there and hocked the movie itself to a friend, then got the 3-disc "Ultimate Collector's Edition" of same, put the old bonus disc in there, and even now keep watching this flick.

Anyone else have any flicks they feel the same about?

Maybe if I get a good response to this article, I'll post more film stuff. Pipe up!



  1. hey, cool post...I still haven't watched the entirety of Van Helsing, tho I own it and plan to....someday...

    There's lots of really bad movies that can be quite enjoyable if you're in the right frame of mind when you subject yourself to the viewing. I mean, if I'm in the right mood, I can even enjoy Speed 2, which was a truly awful train wreck of a flick...but Sandra Bullock looking good can make up for a lot of inane dialogue.

    Then there's 3000 Miles to Graceland (fun but stupid), the Bad Boys flicks of excessive wreckage (which I liked), and Blade: Trinity which I rather enjoyed except for the ending which made no sense if you tried to think about it....

    Of course, my film that would be on par with your Van Helsing experience would be Batman Forever. Always liked the flick, but it's not what a Batman film should be...

    Keep up the writing...

  2. Can't say I've seen Speed 2. The first one (although I think it was script-doctored by Joss Whedon) was bad enough for me. Sorry, I can't see Keanu as anything other than "Ted" Theodore Logan. And I don't like Sandra Bullock--she's too stupid for me. Similarly, haven't seen 3000 Miles..., nor Bad Boys (just not my bag).

    Blade, I own the unrated 2-disc'er, and yes, my brain still hurts. The film was easily the least of the trilogy, and should have been the best. It lacked good direction, and needed the finer points of the script reworked. I think, but am not sure, that a better actor would have elevated the Dracula role. Maybe Adrian Pasdar, but then again, I'm in a Profit frame of mind tonight.

    Re: Bats...at least my Van Helsing experience isn't on par with anyone's experience with Batman & Robin. (Watch someone come out of the woodwork and defend the Bat-Mastercard, now...any minute...)

    Thanks for dropping by. I'll be around your blog soon. (I'm guessing you came over from Comixfan...)



  3. When I first saw Seabiscuit, I HATED it. lol The second time I was forced to watch it I sort of enjoyed it. Now it is one of my favorite movies! lolol

  4. what was wrong with Mummy 1 and 2. they were great fun!


I can never tell if two comments from "Anonymous" are really by the same person, so please, especially if I know you from other websites, leave a name or alias or something! Thanks!