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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/09/2004 Archived Entry: "A "Van Hesling" review of sorts"

Reviewed by Ginger Mayerson

I wasn't going to see "Van Helsing" and therefore wouldn't be able to review it, but I realized that I couldn't let down the long time readers of this site. All three of them.

Enter at your own risk: There are lots of spoilers.

I'm also reviewing this... this... film so I can complain about Carl Orf's influence on film music and tell my wonderfully obscure music joke. "Carmina Burana", which is medieval monk chants arranged for modern instruments, can be listened to about once, maybe twice if you're really a masochist and want to impress your friends who have never heard real medieval music (of which I am a bigish fan, especially Gregorian Chant, which is most of medieval music). Neither Orf nor I are ethnomusicologists; I, however, never tried to make a living at playing at one. Which brings me to the thing Glen Gould said about Philip Glass: "And we thought Carl Orf found and easy way to make a living."

Bad um bum bum. Okay, as soon as the musicians stop laughing (okay, they weren’t laughing), on with the "Van Hesling" review!

There's too much "Carmina Burana" in the score, but it's otherwise unremarkable.

When it comes out on video, I fully expect there to be the following drinking game - Spot the Trope, wherein one takes a drink every time one spots one of the following tropes form one of the following shows, genres, legitimate authors:

Tarzan
Wild Wild West
James Bond
Secret quasi religious organizations running and/or protecting the world from whatever
Braum Stoker
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Robert Louis Stevenson
John Ford Westerns
"Alien(s)" exploding birth pods
Charlies' Angels films
Wolfman films
Dracula films
Frankenstein films
A car chase was missing, but there is a carriage chase, so maybe that can count for it

I'm sure the list could go on and on, but I can only take so much responsibility for the resulting alcoholic comas.

It is an unshakable fact that fundable Hollywood is pretty much out of ideas. So, needless to say, "Van Helsing" isn't so much a film as a collection of proven tropes strung together on a goofy plot calling itself a film while really being an excuse for effects, stunts, and cleavage. Is it watchable? Sure, why not? The action, costumes and effects are great and the boring, pointless dialogue is kept to a minimum. It's all wonderfully over the top. For instance, when Dracula bites someone, he sprouts more teeth than a moray eel. Great stuff.

Can Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckensale act? Who can know? Their job here was to look good around and deliver dumb lines. This film must have been easy money for all the actors because they don't have to act in this film. Richard Roxburgh, portraying Dracula, must have looked at the script and thought: "The only way I can salvage anything of my career is to camp this thing to the moon." And he does. Probably the best performance of the thing, unless you count Shuler Hensley, the guy playing Frankenstein's monster, who was channeling Peter Boyle and Robert DeNiro. There are also two Richard O'Brien impersonators in this flick, and one of them, Kevin J. O'Connor, is named Igor. I would go see a film with any of these guys in it. I was under whelmed by Beckensale, but impressed that she must have had her lowest ribs removed to be able to look like that. What dedication, what a trouper. Can she act? I've no idea, but she can enunciate fairly well through a cheesy, God knows what kind of Eastern European accent. Hugh Jackman is pretty, maybe someday he'll get a role that requires more than that. No, I didn't see X-Men, and yet I am somehow living a full and rewarding life, go figure.

I guess the good news is that the Frankenstein's laboratory set from the original film got recycled one more time. Waste not want not, except actors whose only job these days seems to be to not get in the way of the special effects.

Things I didn't know before I saw "Van Hesling": I didn't know Frederick Frankenstein, Ph.D.'s lab was in Transylvania, but that's irrelevant. I didn't know the brides of Dracula could fly, but that's irrelevant. I didn't know Frankenstein's monster had such a big vocabulary and moral values, but that's irrelevant.

You're not supposed to know the ending, but so what? It's Dracula vs. The Wolfman. It makes absolutely no difference to the film if you know this or not. However, just so you know it's okay to laugh: The Great Big Dramatic Moment(TM) at the end got the most howls.

Should you see "Van Hesling"? Sure, it's fun, but don't pay full price; you'll enjoy it all the more.

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