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From Entertainment.iafrica.com

Van Helsing - Buffy’s big brother (buffy mentions)

By Leigh Robertson

Friday 7 May 2004, by Webmaster


What is it with us mortal beings and our age-old fascination with sharp-fanged, velvet-cloaked creatures of the night? Long before Buffy became a cult heroine for slaying vampires, the blood-sucking un-dead wandered the gloomy recesses of our collective imaginations.

In 1897 author Bram Stoker romanticised and put a name to the mythical vampyr in his novel ’Dracula’, with the wretched Count from Transylvania further immortalised (despite countless stakes having been thrust through his heart) in literary works and on celluloid in decades since. The vampire has become something of an obsessive subject for contemporary authors and filmmakers, indeed even a pop culture icon as seen in the works of Anne Rice, Poppy Z Brite and even Bret Easton Ellis. We’ve seen them in fairly recent films like ’Interview with the Vampire’, ’Shadow of the Vampire’, ’The Lost Boys’, ’The Hunger’, ’From Dusk Till Dawn’, ’Blade’ and countless others.

Then Dracula, The Prince of Darkness himself, has been raised from the grave more times than we can list (though here’s a try: ’Son of Dracula’, ’Dracula’s Daughter’, ’Dracula’s Brides’, ’House of Dracula’...), most recently in Francis Ford Coppola’s ’Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, with Gary Oldman the most charming incarnation of the Count since Bela Lugosi.

The old story has always involved Dracula, the force of darkness and evil, pitted against those representing humanity, the force of light and life. Pursuing him through the ages has been the ever-persistant Van Helsing, though funnily always a less glamourous and appealing character than the old Count.

Enter filmmaker Stephen Sommers (’Deep Rising’, ’The Mummy’, ’The Scorpion King’), whose latest movie, ’Van Helsing’, positions that most famous of all vampire slayers (yes, even more than Buffy), Van Helsing himself, as the central attraction. It helps that he’s rather dishy too, accompanied by an even tastier sidekick.

Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in ’X-Men’) stars as Van Helsing, who yet again sets off on his (Karmic?) mission to bring down the supernaturally powerful Count Dracula (Richard Roxbough) in his dank lair. This time he’s joined by the comely Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale), a gothic princess if ever there was, who is out to put an end to a generations-old family curse.

The film, a (darkly) glittering visual feast, is set in 19th century London, Rome, Paris and, of course, Transylvania. Sommers evidently delights in the effects made possible by CGI technology, and ’Van Helsing’ is like a demo for the range of smoke and mirrors stuff that can be done.

He also takes the story a few stretches of the imagination further than the traditional Stoker formula. Van Helsing doesn’t only have Dracula to contend with, but - and here purists may balk at the thought - also a reincarnated Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolf Man and other forces of the dark. Seeing is believing. But for a genre that’s already been associated with the tacky, silly and downright funny (remember ’Love at first bite’?), you will have seen a lot worse.

Ultimately ’Van Helsing’ is little more than a visually delicious walk on the dark side, though if things that go bump in the night still send shivers down your spine, chances are the relentless bloodsucking and spooky scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat nonetheless.

For more about the film, visit the official website: http://www.vanhelsing.net/.

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