Confession time: I love Van Helsing. 10 years have passed since its release, and I still and forever maintain that it’s awesome and tons of fun. From Richard Roxborough’s gleefully campy, evil as fuck Count Dracula who turns into a giant Harryhausen creature, to the weird body horror werewolf transformations, to the insane climax where Frankenstein’s monster saves the day by swinging in on a rope, it’s pure Saturday morning Universal monsters, and I just can’t not love it. It’s genuinely funny and is absolutely packed with in-jokes and references to that first run of 30’s to 40’s Universal monster movies, from visual gags like the black-and-white opening with the old mill, or the villagers just foaming at the mouth to chase anyone with pitchforks and torches. The design of the whole thing is absolutely beautiful as well, with gigantic gothic sets and miniatures in every scene.
I understand what puts people off… It’s bombastic and non-stop, has a few plot holes (what doesn’t), and Stephen Sommers’ broad, operatic style of directing really gets to the actors and makes them go over the top with every line delivery, but for me that almost makes it more enjoyable.
The “action/adventure horror” genre is more miss than hit, but Van Helsing is one of the few that gets it really right, and somehow I don’t think we’ll see its kind again. Serious-minded adaptations of these characters are wonderful and I will welcome more of them, but there will always be a place in my heart for the Monster Mash, Count Chocula, and Van Helsing.