Van Helsing (2004, Stephen Sommers)

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These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: Paris, the Vatican and mostly Transylvania – 1887 and 1888.

Faithful to the novel? It’s a totally new story using some of the people from the book, though in the eponymous character’s case the similarities end with his surname. Hugh Jackman’s Gabriel Van Helsing has a muddled backstory – he can’t remember his early life and there are hints he may be immortal (or an angel). He’s an agent for a secretive sect called the Knights of the Holy Order, an evil-fighting organisation made up of all the world’s religions (or at least the famous ones). Count Vladislaius Dracula, meanwhile, is played hammily by Richard Roxburgh. Like in the novel, he has a trio of Brides. Unlike in the novel, they can fly and seem to spend half the film hovering in mid-air looking angry. The CGI effect when they’re in a half-woman/half-bat mode is really crummy.

Best performance: David Wenham from The Lord of the Rings is quite fun as Van Helsing’s superfluous sidekick, Carl.

Best bit: The atmospheric black-and-white prologue, which goes to town with references to the Universal horror movies of the 1930s.

Review: This Gothic monster mash-up sees Dracula, Frankenstein and his monster, Jeykll and Hyde, Jack the Ripper and the Hunchback of Notre Dame all ticked off in the first 10 minutes. The Wolfman turns up later too. It also has steampunk technology and comic-book zip. But despite these ingredients, it’s incredibly *empty* filmmaking. The tone is the biggest problem. The film isn’t witty enough to be escapist, not scary enough to be a horror, and not dramatic enough to be engaging. And the plethora of action scenes feel so arbitrary. Things happen, characters react, but it’s all pretty meaningless.

Four gas-powered crossbows out of 10

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