'Van Helsing'

Screening now at FACT

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Panned by many critics on its release, I nevertheless really enjoyed the horror all-action epic Van Helsing, directed with impressive style by Stephen Sommers, who was also responsible for 'The Mummy'.

It stars a charismatic Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), together with his beautiful brides, Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein's monster, Wolfman, werewolves, as well as Van himself!

Maybe the critics miss the point. It is meant as a reverential homage to the Hammer Horror movies, mainly produced in Britain, as well as being a massive spoof of that film genre.

The film gallops along at a furious pace from start to finish of its 130 minutes duration.

There is a dramatic opening ten minute sequence, filmed in monochrome. In a bizarre shot, The spinning globe of Universal's logo turns into a blazing torch held aloft by an angry member of a densely packed mob, marching to a castle in pursuit of Frankenstein and his monster.

Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a vampire-slayer, battling throughout against evil-doers, most spectacularly against Dracula, often with the help of the charming Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale). They do so on behalf of a Catholic organisation based in the Vatican, in their war against Satan in all his forms.

The photography in this segment of the film is awe inspiring, which was the case throughout.

Inevitably in this £130 million Hollywood blockbuster, special effects dominate the film. They include some dazzling flying sequences by Dracula's brides, a frantic carriage chase in a gothic style wood, and some plunging downwards shots towards earth that take the breath away.

I go to see a lot of films, many of them non-mainstream, and this type of film is not usually to my taste, but it proved to be two hours of high camp entertainment.