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VAN HELSING

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 132 minutes, bloopers, featurettes, commentaries, trailers, and more

STUDIO: UNIVERSAL

PLOT: Van Helsing is sent on a mission (to Transylvania) by a secret holy order to kill Dracula and protect a gypsy princess.

ANALYSIS: VAN HELSING does start out great for the first 30 minutes, but then it desceneds into MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 territory with some absurd melodrama stuck in between some well staged action sequences and don't get me started on the vampire babies (that look like Gremlins with wings). I don't like Dracula coming off as EuroTrash. He has dwarf servants that look like they came out of some nuclear wasteland movie. I did like Kate Beckinsale as Anna (my favorite character of the movie), but I could have cared less if Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) survived the movie. I loved Hugh as Wolverine in the X-Men movies, but I didn't really care for his character in this movie. Stephen Sommers does some interesting reimagining of characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, werewolves, and vampires.  The opening sequence of the movie (in black and white) is a homage to the old Universal Horror classics from the 1930s.

VIDEO/AUDIO: The movie is available in full screen and widescreen versions on DVD (also there is a 3 disc Ultimate Edition). Try to stay away from the Full Screen DVD of the movie if you want to see the movie like it was in the theater. Colors are nice and bright, details are good, and yet the blacks look murky at times.

The English 5.1 Dolby Digital track is great. The music and sound effects carry some power. Dialogue can be heard clearly for the most part. Options are available to hear the movie in French or Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround, and watch any language track with Spanish or French subtitles (or English captions for the hard of hearing).

SPECIAL FEATURES: A variety of extras populate the single disc edition of VAN HELSING.

EXPLORE DRACULA'S CASTLE allows you to see the castle set from various angles (as narrated by Dracula). The BLOOPERS are fun ranging from line flubs, Hugh and Kate dancing, weapon prop problems, actors falling down, and various fun being caught on set. BRINGING THE MONSTERS TO LIFE goes into the digital effects and motion capture in the movie. Some animatics, previz, actors in motion capture suits, and scenes from the movie are shown with interviews from various members of the crew (including the director). THE LEGEND OF VAN HELSING talks about the character and the movie. Clips from Dracula, Dracula's Daughter, and Van Helsing are show with interviews with Stephen Sommers, Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, and others. YOU ARE THE MOVIE allows one to experience some scenes of the movie through various angles through various footage shot by mini cameras mounted on the movie cameras and in various places on the set. There is an option to experience this as you watch the movie.

Two commentary tracks are on the DVD for the movie. The first track is with Stephen Sommers and Bob Duscay. They give details about the production of the movie, the digital effects, production difficulties, where scenes in the movie were shot, how the actors were cast (Kate Beckisale got the part of Anna after her agent called asking why she's being considered for the part), Czech extras and Czech torch throwers, the Universal logo at the beginning, and how some costumes would catch on fire during the climatic scenes of the movie. The second commentary is with Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Hensley, and Will Kemp. They are having fun during the commentary.

Other extras include the trailer and Superbowl spot for Van Helsing, a Shrek 2 preview, the first level of the Van Helsing game which you can play if you put the DVD in an XBOX game system, and skippable trailers for SHAUN OF THE DEAD and SEED OF CHUCKY.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The VAN HELSING DVD is a well put together DVD. If you're looking for special features, it is a toss up between the one disc and the 3 disc ultimate edition. If you're looking for a horror movie, just rent it. If you expect this to be an action/adventure romp, buy the one disc DVD (but please stay away from the Full Screen version). VAN HELSING isn't Stephen Sommers' best movie, look to his earlier movies for his best.

this DVD Review is (c)10-27-2004 David Blackwell and this review cannot be reprinted without permission.

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