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Van Helsing (2004)

The one name they all fear

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 132 minutes

UK Certificate: 12a

Popular culture is littered with celebrated “Vans”: Van Morrison, Van Basten, Van Der Valk, van rental – they’ve all earned their rightful place in the adoring eye of Joe and Josephine Public. Now, at last, it’s time for a new pretender to stake his claim for a place alongside those all-time greats: Van Helsing (and no, that’s not the first “stake” pun you’ll get for your money if you’re planning to read on).

A trenchcoat-wearing and devilishly-handsome hardcase employed by the Vatican to teach all manner of monsters a lesson, Van the Man (Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman), careers around late 19th Century Europe making mincemeat of more gothic greats than you can shake an unnecessarily large crossbow at. But his biggest challenge yet waits in Transylvania, and no – it’s not the Cheeky Girls. It’s something much, much worse. Well, I say much, much worse. What I mean is, it’s probably about the same.

The bad egg in question is our old blood-sucking bigamy-loving pal Dracula (a camp-as-Christmas Richard Roxburgh), who’s causing all sorts of problems for local toff Anna (a predictably ravishing Kate Beckinsale) and her rapidly-diminishing family. Of course, ol’ Dracster didn’t count on our man Van popping up to lend a hand – big mi-stake (told you).

Director Stephen Sommers, who with the ‘Mummy’ flicks behind him is swiftly becoming king of the effects-over-storyline mantra, delivers the most action-packed blockbuster I can recall seeing for quite some time. The no-expense-spared visuals are truly a sight to behold, and “subtlety” clearly isn’t a word in Sommers’ vocabulary. In short, adrenalin junkies will love it, but everyone else will probably be left wondering whatever happened to trifling matters such as plot, dialogue and plain old credibility.

Still, at least it’s a considerably better monster mash than last year’s rubbish ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’. For that much we should all be thankful.

It's Got: Pitchforks and flaming torches – no self-respecting angry village mob would be seen without them.

It Needs: To be seen for the impressive fx, and a great black-and-white opening scene (in fact, it would have been interesting to have seen the whole movie done in that style).


This hundred-mile-an-hour goth-romp leaves you gasping for breath – but not for more.