Van Helsing : A Movie Review

I wanted to see the film ‘Van Helsing’ ever since the popular television channel HBO offered tidbits of this 2004 popular movie behind-the-scenes and trailers. I wanted to experience it in a cinema hall with special effects, however, convincing my parent(s) that it was suitable for me despite its horror tag, was a challenging task. Unfortunately, I  ultimately ended up borrowing a pirated version of it from a movie library since the library lends out films without considering their suitability for minors.


The pirated VCD was disappointing as it did not have approximately the first 2 minutes of this film. But I was still determined to watch as much as was available. I was well rewarded because most of the violence was creating a lot of exhilaration and was generating nervous excitement in me. The firing of Van Helsing’s (lead played by Hugh Jackman alongside Kate Beckinsale) pistols when Mr. Hyde throws him backward exhilarated me, and the sudden transformation of two painted dueling knights into a werewolf and a male vampire was nervously exciting for me. By the way, all the werewolves in this film are male. The female vampires were naked when winged whereas Count Dracula still had his pants on when winged. The leaping of the second werewolf onto Van Helsing as the latter shoots at the former  and the struggle to escape and capture the first werewolf was nervously exciting for me. But the rest of the violence was of the sort that I indifferently skimmed over due to my determination. The accidental killing of a creepy “Transylvanian” male human by the second werewolf was one such incident. A female vampire punching the heroine unconscious was another.

Some images in this film also managed to repulse me. Some instances were whenVan Helsing’s digs into a vampire egg; the imparting of life to the infant vampires by infusing electricity; the bursting dead of the infant vampires; a glimpse of the heroine’s dead decaying uncle; the sight of an arm sliced off Mr. Hyde by Van Helsing.

Comparative Review

The film has rightly been labeled a “hollow creature feature” by the consensus of the website, but it does provide a fresh story involving Count Dracula. Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) presented the Count as having the power to turn into a wolf as well as a wolf-man. Stephen Sommer’s Van Helsing presents werewolves and vampires as two different creatures. The 1992 film presented vampires as flightless, whereas all the vampires in Van Helsing have the advantage over werewolves of being winged in one form. The ’92 film also presented the Count as a person to be sympathized with, whereas Van Helsing presents him as an evil creature masterminding a plot to flood the world with his offspring’s. Unfortunately, Stephen Sommer also wants the audience to feel sympathy for the Count during a scene, when he moans on his inability to feel human emotions saddened him. Highly creative filmmaker Quentin Tarantino has rightly stated that “hacks pay homage” and “artists steal”. Sommers has most likely been a hack by making Count Dracula moan that his situation was tragic, because the ’92 film and (particularly) Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampire worked that theme to the bone.

But the changing of the titular character’s first name from Abraham to Gabriel allowed for a different and longer history. Gabriel is supposed to be an angel by Abrahamic religions. According to this film, Van Helsing was merely a name he received after forgetting most of his initial life in purgatory. By the way, Sommers should have read Dante’s Divine Comedy because he reveals his ignorance about the names of heaven (paradise), hell (inferno) and the life between them (purgatory) in one dialogue by a Catholic Christian priest: The Valerious family pledged long ago that they would spend the afterlife in hell if they don’t exterminate Dracula and his kind. “We cannot let” their souls “go to purgatory”. Coming back to Gabriel Van Helsing, we are given snippets of his initial life in purgatory. He remembers fighting against or for “the Romans” and Count Dracula identifies him to us as “Gabriel”, adding that the two of them have an intertwined history. But he does not reveal any angelic powers. Perhaps that does not matter as he sort of fulfills his destiny of killing Satan’s/the Devil’s son after becoming the third werewolf.

Van Helsing also has Frankenstein and his son/monster (yes! believe it or not!), though the former does not survive beyond the first sequence. But the death of Frankenstein does involve two morbidly fascinating images that constitute a first glimpse of Count Dracula’s monster form.

So rent or buy a disc version of this film if you haven’t already seen portions of it in a haphazard manner, and please try to avoid using pirated CD’s.

Nirbhay Bhogal

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