“Tomorrow night is All Hallows’ Eve. Here in Budapest, there is a wonderful masquerade ball” – Elena Anaya, Van Helsing (2004)
Not sure which monster movie you want to watch this Halloween season? Van Helsing has got you.
I’ll be honest…the first time I watched Van Helsing, I did not like it. I watched it at a sleepover with a friend who raved about it daily and even had shelves full of collectibles attributed to the movie. If I’m remembering correctly, the reason I did not like it was something about the acting, or the story, or maybe (most likely) it was my teenage angst convincing me it was cool to not like things. Once I revisited the movie when I was not quite as angsty, I really fell hard for it.
Combining the stories of Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Van Helsing covers all the spooky bases in a riotous monster mash. You know how I love some camp, and this one has plenty of it (intentionally or otherwise). This is a pretty wild movie for which to attempt a synopsis, but I will try my hardest. The story begins one year before the main period of the movie in Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory, just as his creation comes to life. In this story, Frankenstein’s scientific endeavors are supported by Count Dracula. Dracula seeks to bring thousands of vampire offspring to life in this story, and he needs Victor’s expertise to make it happen. Things don’t quite work out according to plan, and we are then introduced to Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) in the core timeline of the story. As for his occupation and role in the story, Van Helsing is hired to hunt monsters and other unnatural beings. His latest assignment is to travel to Transylvania to assist Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) in defeating Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) to break her family’s curse. When he arrives and the characters come together, the assignment has more in store than any of them expected.
Richard Roxburgh’s Dracula is quite possibly my favorite version of Dracula of all time, and I do not say that ironically. That is not to say that others, such as Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, have not delivered the best performances; the style of this Dracula speaks to me most. Maybe it’s because I’m attracted to men with long hair (thanks, Anne Rice), maybe it’s the accent paired with the black wardrobe. He’s just my favorite (shrugs). Also, let me just say: Dracula’s brides are one of the best parts of this movie, and they deserved way more screen time. I’m already working on a short story from a bride’s perspective from the chapter in Dracula where they feed on Jonathan Harker. If anyone at Universal is interested in a screenplay for a movie about Marishka, Verona, and Aleera, I will gladly give it a shot.
There is one major plot point I still have not been able to completely figure out. Maybe y’all can help me out, here…why exactly does Dracula need Frankenstein’s monster to bring his children to life? They tried it on Anna’s brother (a werewolf) at first to no avail, but why must the electric currents go through another body at all in this particular endeavor? I can see Frankenstein’s monster being a trial (and eventual proof) of the success of that method, but why is he an essential part of the process that created him?
Yes, I have put way too much thought into this.
Also, what happens when the solitary village that is consistently attacked by the vampires throughout the movie runs out of a blood supply? Are you going to move with your thousands of vampire babies in tow, Dracula? Okay, I’m done now. Despite the questions of technicalities it leaves us with, Van Helsing remains one of my top favorites. It is a Gothic candyland of spooky and opulent visuals, and everything from the costumes to the production design are monumentally Halloweeny.
My intention with this blog in general is the analyze various aspects of horror and attempt to uncover how horror reflects our lives, from social to individual issues. With a movie like Van Helsing, however, it’s just plain fun. Horror, camp, and cult films do give us a lot to work with when it comes to rhetorical analysis, but that does not mean they cannot simply be enjoyed for what they are. Van Helsing is a film that has traveled with me to different homes and screens over the years, that I have watched with friends, that I have turned on at midnight surrounded by popcorn and candy after a long work week. I just love it for what it is: the B-horror movie to rule them all. If you have not yet had the pleasure of watching it, I hope you enjoy it as well!
Until next time,
P.S. Happy almost-Halloween!