Thanks to the back-to-back blockbusters ”The Mummy” and ”The Mummy Returns,” it’s safe to say writer-director Stephen Sommers owns monster movies. He’s also in possession of Universal’s undying affection: Those Egyptian vengefests earned the studio a tidy $357 million in domestic receipts. So who better than Sommers to ransack the Uni vaults again in search of more classic characters ripe for revival?
The $148 million, F/X-heavy (to the tune of 980 effects shots) ”Van Helsing” is a 19th-century tale of an emotionally conflicted monster hunter who combats Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley), and the Wolf Man (Gap hunk Will Kemp) — subjects close to the director’s heart. ”I know my lore,” says Sommers. ”That’s one thing none of the geeks can get me on. I AM a geek!”
Just don’t expect the film to be all bloody stakes through the heart and full moons. ”If people see it just because they think they’re going to see a guy facing three monsters, then so be it,” says star Hugh Jackman. ”But they’re going to get a pleasant surprise. It really is an epic adventure, and at the center is a very touching romance.” To wit, ”Underworld”’s Kate Beckinsale turns up as a Transylvanian-accented vampire huntress who, it turns out, has her sights set on Dracula’s head — and Van Helsing’s heart. (Other geek attractions: Dracula’s undead brides, hybrid creatures made up of real beauties enhanced with computer-generated effects.)
”He has a certain amount of pathos and believability,” Jackman says of his character, adding that ”there’s also a very heroic, swashbuckling element.” And love story aside, the film allowed Jackman to relieve some stress by kicking some monster butt. ”Let’s face it, it was a boyhood dream,” he jokes. ”It beats yoga.”
THE GOOD NEWS The movie’s high concept sounds way cool.
THE BAD NEWS The last high-concept flick to combine several classic characters was ”The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”