Follow us on:





RSS Feed to all our Blu-ray Reviews



So many others have jumped on the flaws in VAN HELSING ($27) that they fail to see the fun in this movie. Personally, I really like VAN HELSING because it appeals to the six-year-old still inside of me… the kid who thrilled to watching the old, classic Universal monster movies on television, time and again. With VAN HELSING, writer/director Stephen Sommers attempts to do for Universal Horror staples Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man what he had previously done for The Mummy- in other words, wrap them in an action/adventure movie serial that has been enhanced with state of the art special effects. And in this regard, I feel Sommers succeeded marvelously, as he did deliver audiences some richly buttered, popcorn entertainment. However, with VAN HELSING, Sommers didn’t quite succeed to the same extent, as he did THE MUMMY. I will admit that VAN HELSING is sometimes a bit too busy for its own good, and the film’s less than happy ending is too "new school" for a movie purporting to celebrate the Universal classics of the thirties and forties. Still, I am not going to bash VAN HELSING for its flaws- there are plenty of others out there far too willing to do that. As for me, I am too busy indulging my inner six-year-old and reveling in wonderful excesses of VAN HELSING.

VAN HELSING opens in Transylvania, in 1887 with Doctor Frankenstein (Samuel West) bestowing life on his creation. As we quickly learn, Frankenstein’s work is being funded by Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who has his own nefarious plans for wanting the secret to creating life. Just as quickly, an angry mob of villagers storms the castle, and before you know it, Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley) meets his supposed end, atop a fiery windmill. Next we meet Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), an amnesiac, who works for The Vatican in the capacity of monster hunter. Not surprisingly, Van Helsing’s latest assignment takes him to Transylvania, where he is to assist Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) and her brother Velkan (Will Kemp) in eliminating Dracula- something that their family has been attempting to do for the last nine generations. Unfortunately, before Van Helsing arrives in Transylvania, a werewolf infects Velkan, leaving Anna the last hope for killing Dracula and saving her entire family line from an eternity in purgatory. However, once Van Helsing does arrive in Transylvania, all things are revealed… including Dracula’s intentions for Frankenstein's Monster, not to mention the mysteries of Van Helsing’s forgotten past. The cast of VAN HELSING also features David Wenham, Elena Anaya, Kevin J. O'Connor, Alun Armstrong, Silvia Colloca, Josie Maran and Tom Fisher.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made VAN HELSING available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. VAN HELSING has been given a fairly eye-popping 1080p presentation, which is a visual treat, one that commences with a superb black and white sequence that embodies the flavor of the classic Universal monster movies. Throughout the feature, the image is sharp and well defined, although the cinematography employs a slightly smokiness, which does shave a tiny hair off the level of definition, as does the mixture of live action and digital elements. Still the picture appears quite dimensional and delivers some very nice texturing. Colors tend to be full-blooded and quite vivid, in addition to producing attractive flesh tones. Blacks are deep, while the whites are crisp and clean. The picture boasts smooth contrast, but the level of shadow detail isn’t always exemplary. The elements from which VAN HELSING has been mastered are virtually pristine. There is a mild veneer of grain throughout, which helps the presentation maintain the film-like quality.

VAN HELSING is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. I have to say; I think the sound design is determined to beat the audience to death- but in a good way. There is an ever-present pounding quality to the bass channel, which rarely lets up, whether it is explosively bringing to life thundering hoof beats, or action sequence impacts or Alan Silvestri’s persistent score. Additionally, sound effects are given a good spread throughout the soundstage, with the rear channels enlivening the film’s numerous set pieces. Also, atmospherics make good use of the outlying channels. The lossless encode enhances the fidelity of the film’s music, as well as providing a highly convincing quality for the sound effects. Dialogue is almost always intelligible, but occasionally, the sound effects threaten to drown it out. French and Spanish DTS 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries; the first features writer/director Stephen Sommers and editor/producer Bob Ducsay, while the second is with actors Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Hensley and Will Kemp. Next up is Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend, which is a near hour-long program that looks at the production, as well as the movie’s influences. Universal's U-Control interface is utilized for an interactive version of the movie that provides in context picture-in-picture, pop-up supplements (requires a Profile 1.1 player).

Featurettes and other programs include the following: Track The Adventure (thirty-five minutes), Bringing The Monsters To Life (ten minutes), Dracula's Lair Is Transformed (three minutes), The Music Of Van Helsing (ten minutes), The Art Of Van Helsing (five minutes), The Masquerade Ball Is Unmasked (twenty five minutes) and You Are In The Movie (four minutes). Bloopers and Monster Eggs close out the standard supplements. VAN HELSING is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

VAN HELSING is an old style monster mash that my inner six-year-old delights in. The Blu-ray presentation serves up the film’s eye-popping visuals and pounding soundtrack with aplomb. VAN HELSING may not be to every taste, but for the like minded, this Blu-ray disc release comes recommended.



Van Helsing [Blu-ray] (2004)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



Add to My Yahoo!  Add to Google  RSS Feed & Share Links