Gort vs Van Helsing: Vamping it up with classic Universal monsters

A lot of people despise Van Helsing, but is it really that bad a movie?

I mean, it has Hugh Jackman, monsters and Kate Beckinsale in leather, can it be all bad? Hit the jump to find out.

A movie starring Wolverine as a re-invention of the classic Dracula hero fighting re-inventions of classic horror icons and written by Mummy writer/director Stephen Sommers? Audiences had a lot to be excited about when what was deemed a new franchise was first rumoured, but it all went horribly wrong and the movie sank into the obscurity of Saturday-night TV. There, however, it found a kind of nerdy cult status that appalled the cinemati.

Of course, there is a lot to dislike about the film: Van Helsing is a gruff loner with a history of violence that is shrouded from him by enforced amnesia, swept up in a war he wants no part of when all he's after is to find out who he is. Hmm... who does that remind me of... And the rip-offs don't end with Wolverine; the film's sidekick is a thinly-veiled Q impersonator, who you could swear almost calls Van Helsing "Bond" at several points.

The film is over long and the plot takes a few too many unnecessary twists and turns before it meanders its way to a conclusion. The list of horror tropes that are ticked off is a joy to recount, but it is certainly a film that benefits from a pause-to-make-a-cuppa/finish-off-tomorrow format.

Worst of all are the film's effects, which remind you of the kind of 90s proto-CGI you could forgive until you realise it was released the year after Matrix Reloaded.... Still, the actual designs are impressive. The new Frankenstein's monster is a revelation of bio-luminescent gel, looking more like a gooey Borg than the steampunk classic. Equally, the wolfman that rips off his skin to reveal the monster underneath and then rips off fur to return to human form is nicely grisly; while the full-on, flying harpy vampires inspire a wonderful sequence when put up against our hero and a semi-automatic crossbow.

Likewise, the performances are actually pretty good. Jackman only ever plays two characters - Jackman or Wolverine - but, whilst not as good as his Wolverine, he is still charismatic enough to pull off just playing himself. 300's David Wenham humps frenetic life into a one-note character and makes him absolutely lol-worthy as the aforementioned Q wannabe; he deserves far better than the roles Hollywood has lumped him with. Shuler Hensley, Richard Roxburgh and even Robbie Coltrane also show how undervalued they are as character actors with some nice, hammy performances. Of course, the less said about Beckinsale's accent, the better, but she's still simply adorable.

Above all else, this is a film you can watch over and over again. It's a romp of a B-movie with some smart ideas and enough thrills and laughs to keep you interested. It's the summer fling that all your mates think was a bit of a munter, but you think about and smile because you had a good time. Not a lost love, but a good lay, nonetheless.

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