Like a roller coaster ready to fly off its rails, Van Helsing
rockets to maximum velocity and never slows down. Having earned blockbuster clout with The Mummy
and The Mummy Returns
, writer-director Stephen Sommers once again plunders Universal's monster vault and pulls out all the stops for this mammoth $148-million action-adventure-horror-comedy, which opens (sans
credits) with a terrific black-and-white prologue that pays homage to the Universal horror classics that inspired it. The plot pits legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) against Dracula (the deliciously campy Richard Roxburgh), his deadly blood-sucking brides, and the Wolfman (Will Kemp) in a two-hour parade of outstanding special effects (980 in all) that turn Sommers' juvenile plot into a triple-overtime bonus for CGI animators. In alliance with a Transylvanian princess (Kate Beckinsale) and the Frankenstein monster (Shuler Hensley), Van Helsing must prevent Dracula from hatching his bat-winged progeny, and there's so much good-humored action that you're guaranteed to be thrilled and exhausted by the time the 10-minute end-credits roll. It's loud, obnoxious, filled with revisionist horror folklore, and aimed at addicted gamers and eight-year-olds, but this colossal monster mash (including Mr. Hyde, just for kicks) will never, ever bore you. A sequel is virtually guaranteed. --Jeff Shannon
Mega-budget action adventure starring Hugh Jackman as the eponymous Gabriel Van Helsing, monster hunter extraordinaire. Van Helsing is sent on a mission by the Vatican to Transylvania to hunt down the evil Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), accompanied only by the faithful friar Carl (David Wenham). There he meets the beautiful Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale), one of the last remaining descendants of a powerful royal family. She is as determined as Van Helsing to destroy the infamous vampire, who placed an ancient curse on her ancestors that has led to generations of supernatural goings-on and copious bloodshed. Other adversaries including Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man and Dracula's bloodthirsty vampire brides stand in their way - but will the brave and beautiful win through?