Hugh Jackman is back again, but not as the grumpy Wolverine of X-Men fame, this time he's a monster hunter in what is being called Universal's tribute to its classic monster flicks. I had jokenly referred to this movie as The Mummy Returns 2, before I had a chance to see it, and honestly it was actually better than The Mummy Returns, but we will get to that in a minute.
Van Helsing is essentially a servant of The Vatican's secret order that protects humanity against evil. For his deeds, he is openly hated by most of Europe who sees him as nothing but a murderer. On his most current mission he is to go to Transylvania and help the last surviving members of a clan that has sworned to kill Dracula in order to save their entire family from purgatory. Helsing arrives with his trusty new sidekick Friar Carl, who is also his weapons maker. He meets the beautiful gypsy looking Anna Valerious, played by Kate Beckinsale, who by the way looks much more attractive as a human, than as a vampire in Underworld. They are of course greeted by Dracula's three evil vampire brides who try to kill Anna. After this the story starts to deepen, along with some frights and fast paced action of course.
The film still seems rather rushed in some scenes, but it is nowhere near the chase style of The Mummy Returns. Given that the film is over two hours long and that you hardly notice it, most people will actually really like this film if they are into monster movies that have a touch of comedy and which are not too full of themselves. As a kid I grew up on the local station's Spengooli Monster Movie show, which is similar to Elvira, but with a cooky looking guy. Spengooli regularly passed such classic black&white Universal movies as Dracula and The Bride of Frankenstein. Van Helsing is a sort of modern tribute to those films but with computer enhanced graphics and of course color, instead of black&white film, though I kind of wished they would have stuck to black&white.
Besides Kate Beckinsale's lovely figure and strikingly perfect face, the one thing that really makes this film come alive is the soundtrack and score. The music is classic monster movie and it is as loud as the lightning bolts on top of the castle tower. The score breathes not only life into action scenes, like Helsing's horse carriage escape, but also quadruples the scare in scenes that make you jump out of your chair! I know I even felt my heart stop a couple of times, so make sure you take a girlfriend, cause she will definitely be scared in a few scenes.
I hope Van Helsing makes Universal rethink their films and make more movies with silly monsters and comedic characters instead of Underworld. Sure vampires are sexy and evil, but they should be fun too. I love The Matrix Trilogy, but enough with the seriousness! It was fun to watch a movie that was completely ridiculous and yet entertaining, and it reminded me of why I want to go to the theater in the first place: for a good scare and even better laugh.