Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh
Written and Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Music: Alan Silvestri
Monster hunter, Van Helsing, is sent by the Vatican to Transylvania to kill Count Dracula and save the bloodline of a family that’s been fighting the vampire for generations.
Nothing will ever be as iconic as Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale on this adventure to kill Richard Roxburgh as Count Dracula. All the classic monsters whose tales have been told
and retold were written into one story. Featuring Frankenstein’s monster, vampires, werewolves, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Vampires have largely been poor villains. Some simply as fanged humans, others with terrible accents, then there’s the lust-ridden vampires who worship blood. I only stand behind two vampire characters: Wesley Snipes as Blade; and Richard Roxburgh as Dracula.
Richard Roxburgh invested 110% of himself in becoming the most feared vampire in history. Having to play a character as well-known as Dracula meant a lot of personalization. Roxburgh with the ponytail, the accent, the costume, the mannerisms, it all created a memorable and favorable Count Dracula.
The vampires in general were outstanding monsters. Instead of being weak blood suckers, they transformed into actual winged beasts with monstrous faces. Dracula being the origin of vampirism did not disappoint when he transformed into his full-on monster version. A hideous creature you would not want flying after you late in the night.
Dracula’s brides were alluring women with illustrious medieval costumes.Each bride had a mysterious sensuality and a desperate desire for blood that perfected the traditional vampire style.
It was artistry how their flowing dresses gracefully transitioned into their fleshy wings.
I was truly impressed with their fear status. Though Anna (Beckinsale) was a fighter, she feared the vampires and was proven physically weaker during their first fight. I love when villains are truly made villainous, and I especially love when they live up to their reputation.
One of my favorite parts of the film was the weeping echoes. In Dracula’s lair, the Count’s brides upset Dracula and when he snapped at them, he belted a gnarly roar and his face morphed into his monstrous side. The brides cowered back, weeping and it echoed in the background. It was a subtle yet beautiful touch to these infamous creatures.
Unveiling Frankenstein’s monster in this movie really set this film over the top for me. They could have so easily stuck to the traditional stitchwork makeup of the monster, left him 5′ 11”. But oh no, this film took Frankenstein’s monster and made him a monstrosity. With the buzzing wire work in his brain, the square shape of his head, the patchwork on his body, the boot that gave him a limp with the steam seeping out the side, the way his face fell apart when struck. Not to mention the monster is well over six feet in the movie. Visually he was my favorite Frankenstein monster. Outdone and perfected.
Frankenstein is an actual mutation with a sincere soul. He feels alive and feels emotion. Despite him coming off as this overly aggressive, massive monster, he became lovable because of his heart and good conscience. When he spoke softly, when he mourned the death of his creator, when he begged to keep his life, when he helped Van Helsing, we fell in love with him.
Kate Beckinsale is the queen of werewolves. But I gotta give it to this film. Hands down my favorite werewolves of all time. First off, these huge and hairy beasts did no measly transformation. The suffering of humans ripping their own flesh off to accompany the fur of their new nature, their bones breaking to make room for their massive structure, their facial reconstruction. There was raw pain in humans becoming werewolves, as it should be.
These werewolves were not on all fours the whole film. Carrying over some human traits such as the walking on two feet and the basic body structure empowered the animalistic traits. The legs of a wolf, the lush fur, the long snout of a wolf, and my favorite feature: the pointy ears.
Van Helsing’s black werewolf is what hooked me on this film’s version. Not only was the shade of black of his fur the sexiest black coat of hair, but he completely morphed into the animal version of his human form. It was the sexiest werewolf I’ve seen in cinema.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Every monster this film included was taken to its grandest proportion. Nothing was dumbed down to human size. Werewolves were over six feet tall, Mr. Hyde was way over seven feet. Having that height difference helps us distinguish monsters from humans. Taking those monsters up a notch also gave the film a higher budget impression than it actually had. Affording the makeup and CGI to create these unforgettable versions of classic horror monsters was worth it in the end. No one comes to the movies to see an average Mr. Hyde. They want to see the cigar-eating, buttcrack-showing, unpleasant and sloppy Mr. Hyde that this film gave us.
Valken: “Dracula unleashed you for a reason.”
Dracula: “I feel no love, no pain, no fear, no joy, no sorrow. I am…hollow.”
Best character uplift
Dracula (to Van Helsing): “I can tell the character of a man by his heartbeat. Usually when I approach, I can dance to the beat. Strange that yours is so steady.”
Anna: “I think if you’re going to kill someone, kill them. Don’t stand there talking about it.” (THANK YOU! Finally, someone said it.)
Stephen envisioned bringing the classic monsters to life all in one storyline for this movie, and he did so flawlessly. Dracula funded Frankenstein to create the monster that would give life to Dracula’s children. When Dracula lost Frankenstein’s monster, he used the werewolf forms of his adversaries to try to give life to his offspring, but failed. The whole plot included our top three monsters and interlocked their stories seamlessly and as realistically as science fiction can get.
Medieval Costumes and Masquerade Balls
The medieval setting and costumes flaunted the time period in this movie. We were whisked from castle to castle, we passed through a small cobblestone village, stood atop a grandeur stone church, we went horse and buggy riding, we were entertained by the immortal at a masquerade ball. What a great show.
The costumes, especially Anna’s and those of Dracula’s brides, created exclusive character looks. Unforgettable and purposeful. Anna’s was medieval tactical gear. The brides’ dresses draped out into their wings.
Even the music score was all orchestral. The erotic ballad “All Hallows Eve” inspired a mysterious and seductive mood for the masquerade ball. The thrilling piece “Journey to Transylvania” raced us on wild stringed instruments across Europe. Silvestri has always known what he’s doing behind the baton.
The Monsters We Secretly Wanted to Battle
Dracula versus Werewolf. Never knew you needed to see that, did ya? But that scene where Dracula shifts into his monster and takes on Van Helsing as the black werewolf was the most satisfying fight scene. Especially since the CGI is all so appealing. Mid-fight the monsters would shape shift back into their human forms then shift in flight or in mid-leap back to their monsters and tackle each other. It was the climax we all deserved, the climax that never disappoints.
When Frankenstein’s monster plunged off the rooftop, whew! The film could have cut to us watching him fall from a distance. But it didn’t sacrifice the engaging opportunity to experience that plunge. Instead, when Frankenstein’s monster went over that edge, we dove right off after him. Like a rollercoaster, our stomachs sank and we rode the wind down with him.
Also, Richard Roxburgh actually walked on the ceiling. They strapped a harness to his crotch and he walked up that wall and stood on the ceiling of the set to deliver us that eerie scene in his lair. Just another way they created a tangible Dracula.
Ever wondered why Dracula has no reflection? Puzzle solved in this movie. Here’s a hint:
The visually stunning pose of Van Helsing cradling Anna’s dead body as he howls at the moonlight is so satisfying.
Her death sealed the movie. That classic happily ever after of two lovers riding away from their journey would have been too perfect and unrealistic. I was made most happy that she died. The entire nature of the film prepared us for that.
When I was watching the interviews for this film, I was surprised to discover it was a low budget film. I never would have guessed that. With the sets being so lavish in that medieval period, the costumes, Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman on the roster, the incredible amount of investment the crew made to the monsters and the CGI, the stunts. Perhaps because so many talented crew and cast members invested genuine love and hard work into these characters and
the story, the film felt richer to me.
The film had a budget of $160 million. In the US, it only brought in over $57 million on opening weekend. And they only made a little over $300 million worldwide gross. So not impressive statistically, but a film worth watching. Especially if you’re into vintage horror films, the classics, or just a downright hell of an adventure.