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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Van Helsing Stephen Sommers 2004

The Loudest Nap You'll Ever Take

To quote William Shakespeare, "Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

In that regard, Van Helsing is a movie told by several hundred idiots. Needlessly loud, blazingly incoherant and, as Peter Travers so perfectly put it, "shriekingly boring", Van Helsing doesn't jump off the screen so much as yell from it. I've already forgotten more than half of the plot, although I only saw it 12 hours ago, but the ringing in my ears has yet to fade -- like a banshee with Tourettes, this film is the most relentlessly hystrionic monster movie ever made. But aside from a few glimpses of some hunky fellas and an annoying case of tinnitis, even the most die-hard monster fans won't walk away with much.

I will say this: Will Kemp (the Wolf Man) is a babe, and as long as he will return to shamble about, oiled-up, in a loincloth, I'll go see any sequel that Universal can churn up. Unfortunately, he dies (oops -- um, SPOILER!), so the chances of this are pretty slim. I did find it rather upsetting that an accomplished GAP commericial star (oh -- and international ballet sensation) would have to resort to such mainstream entertainment, but we all do what we have to do, yes? Nonetheless, he's up there acting his little heart out and looking great doing it, and God love him for it.

The rest of the cast doesn't fare so well. Kate Beckinsale, apparently still under the spell cast by Jerry Bruckheimer that turned her from an Actress to a Set Piece for Pearl Harbor, is woefully underused and looks incredibly uncomfortable in her S&M Christina Aguilera outfit. Sporting enough hair and frillery to be mistaken for Ann Wilson from Heart, she may be acting under her pornstar pancake makeup, but it's hard to tell -- mostly she just has to puff her lips out and speak in a Boris and Natasha voice while Hugh Jackman soft-shoes around her.

And speaking of Hugh, what the FUCK?! Is this the same guy who played Wolverine AND Peter Allen? Buried under layers of hair and fabric (hat, coat, boots, what-have-you), Jackman is almost totally wasted -- they honestly could have had Hugh Downs play half of the scenes and we'd have been none the wiser. His hat covers his eyes in almost every scene, and he doesn't so much as take off his 200-lb. trenchcoat until the last scene of the 2-1/2-hour movie. And I'm not saying that Hugh is only good for eye-candy: but this ain't exactly The Elephant Man, folks -- and if the role doesn't require acting OR looking good, I don't see why you shouldn't just cast Anthony Michael Hall instead and save some money.

Let me say before jumping into the "plot" that I didn't literally take a nap during the movie -- it was more like an extended daydream that ran the gamut from what the people around me might have been doing 10 minutes before they entered the theatre to how much Diet Coke a lab rat has to drink before it gets cancer. I take my status as an unpaid self-proclaimed film reviewer far too seriously to actually sleep during a film. But had I, I would have likely been roused awake by some of the following elements:

1) Dracula's Brides: The loudest bitches in the history of cinema
For some ungodly reason, this trio of undead hootchies are forced to scream bloody murder every time they appear on screen. You'd think they were at an Irish wake. Had I counted the number of times one of these sisters threw a hissy directly into camera, it easily would have been in the dozens. Apparently being undead makes you floridly bipolar and prone to ear-splitting fits of hysterics that Courtney Love could only dream of -- whatever the cause, the girls throw some serious drama.

2) Dracula's Helpers: A gurgling army of Oompa-Loompas
Either there's a serious labor shortage in Bulgaria, or ol' count Drac has a thing for little people. Either way, the fact that the Prince of Darkness's only assistants are the Edgar Winters-inspired Igor and a gang of midgets in MadMax gear isn't exactly encouraging. Are there no able-bodied evil people in Bulgaria? I would have preferred seeing Dracula embroiled in Apprentice-like staff disputes with his flagrantly incapable helpers to what actually made it to screen. Dracula himself is actually one of the more entertaining characters, considering he's one of the few with the sense to camp it up a bit, but one wonders if Alan Cumming might have been unavailable.

3) Frankenstein's Monster: Gay?
In one of the more confusing choices in this production, the Monster -- traditionally portrayed as a misunderstood yet uncontrollably violent biproduct of humanity -- is essentially a blue Jiminy Glick with a neon brooch. Puffy, whiny, and possessed of a "noble" character that reminded me of Mr. Belvediere or Winchester from M*A*S*H*, the Monster belts out like a baritone and even spouts quotes from the Bible. At one point the Monster is trapped in an enormous block of ice with just his head poking out the top, giving the impression of an enormous petit four. With his stuffy disposition, his troubled relationship with his father, and his operatic delivery, one might wonder if he's more the Bride than the Monster.

4) Hair-flipping on Blue Light Special
There's more hair-flipping in this film than in two hours' worth of Pantene commercials. Helsing, Ana, and Dracula get in on it the most, and one wonders what director Stephen Sommers would do if he had to direct this movie with short-haired characters: would they all just snap their heads around for cutting purposes? The lighting and extreme liberties taken with the concept of "sunlight" (which I had, until yesterday, thought fairly well decided upon) are also quite distracting: since when can vampires attack on a cloudy day? Um, excuse me, but I think that diffused sunlight is still sunlight -- even if you don't burn as quickly, you can still get a nice, even, all-over color. Were no dermatologists consulted in pre-production?! The whole movie is nonetheless blue-lit, and while this worked in The Pirates of the Caribbean as it was juxtaposed with amber daytime scenes, here it becomes incredibly repetitive and very ugly. The black-and-white opening scene is actually by far the best-looking part of the film.

5) The ending SUCKS.
I've been saving this for last: in a stroke of Christian-greeting-card-inspired insanity, the film actually ends with the image of Ana and her gypsy family superimposed over the breaking clouds in a beautiful blue sky. I have no idea what impact the filmmakers were hoping to have with this image, but to me it looked like something out of a toilet paper commercial. I can only imagine Will Kemp and Kate Beckinsale double-quilting quality bathroom tissue out of the puffy white clouds in the sequel...

In all, loud, boring, and ill-executed. Rent Bride of Frankenstein instead.

Rating (out of 5):