Van Helsing

Starring: Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale
Universal Pictures (UK) Limited
RRP 19.99 (Single disc), £24.99 (Double disc)
82257199 / 82290813
Certificate: 12
Available 11 October 2004

Gabriel Van Helsing is a man cursed with a past of which he has no memory and a mission that he cannot deny - to seek out and destroy evil the world over. Hunted as a murderer by those who do not understand his calling, Van Helsing travels the globe as a fugitive. Accompanied only by Carl, a friar entrusted with providing Van Helsing's safety and his weapons arsenal, Van Helsing is despatched to the shadowy world of Transylvania. Home to the ravishing Anna Valerious, one of the last remaining descendants of a powerful royal family, Van Helsing has been sent to terminate the evil and undefeatable Count Dracula and his alluring bloodthirsty vampire brides...

Stephen Sommers, whose previous movies include The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, brings together some of cinema's most famous monsters - including Frankenstein's Monster, Mr. Hyde, The Wolfman and Count Dracula - in this unbelievably satisfying flick.

Fans of Bram Stoker will already be familiar with the author's famous vampire hunter, Van Helsing. However, in this tale, the man hunts more than vampires. He works for the Catholic church helping it rid the world of evil beasts.

The movie starts with a wonderful nod to the golden screen. The creation of Frankenstein's Monster, and the death of its maker, pays homage to any one of a dozen classic movies. Forced to hide from a rampaging mob, the Monster is forced to carry his master to safety. Their hiding place, a windmill, is discovered and the angry villagers set about torching the building, ensuring that the two are burned alive.

Fast forward one year, and Van Helsing is off on a holy quest to save one bloodline and attempt to terminate another. To aid him on his mission is a friar called Carl. This character, who behaves very much like Q in the James Bond movies, adds some welcome humour as well as a serious arsenal of weapons.

The CGI special effects take up one hell of a lot of screen time, but far from detracting from the plot, Sommers has ensured that every effect is essential to the narrative. Even the soundtrack, composed by Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future and Predator), hits the right note. In fact this is by far Silvestri's greatest work to date.

Extras on the DVD release are pretty impressive and include: Explore Dracula's Castle; bloopers; Bringing Monsters to Life; You Are in the Movie; The Legend of Van Helsing featurette; commentary with director Stephen Sommers and Editor/Producer Bob Duscay; commentary with Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Hensley and Will Kemp; Van Helsing trailers (inc. Superbowl spot) and upcoming releases inc. The Bourne Supremacy and Shrek 2.

Additional extras that are on the two-disc collection include: Explore Frankenstein's Lab; Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend (mini-documentary) - Track The Adventure: Van Helsing Map; The Music of Van Helsing; and Dracula's lair is Transformed.

In all honesty the extras on the single disc collection are more than enough to keep you occupied for quite some time. The 'You Are in the Movie' featurette takes a number of scenes and then plays them back from a mini-camera mounted somewhere else on the set. This allows you to see some of the behind the scenes action that you didn't get to see in the movie, and is quite an interesting feature. The bloopers are amusing, the audio commentaries are certainly worth listening too and the 'Explore Dracula's Castle' featurette is entertaining enough - you get to examine in closer detail the set from the movie. But the most enjoyable extra, for me, was the 'Bringing Monsters to Life' featurette.

This is the most intelligent and enjoyable blockbuster I've seen for quite some time.

Ray Thompson

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£12.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
Single disc edition
£14.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
Double disc edition
£16.99 (MVC.co.uk)
Single disc edition
£19.99 (MVC.co.uk)
Double disc edition
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Single disc edition
£19.99 (Streetsonline.co.uk)
Double disc edition

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