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Van Helsing - US reaction and box office



Compiled by: Jack Foley

DESPITE some decidedly lukewarm reviews, Van Helsing, the first of the 2004 Summer blockbusters, took a highly successful $54.2m (£30.3m) in its first weekend of release.

The film, which cost an estimated $160m (£90m) to produce, finds Hugh Jackman as the legendary vampire slayer, who enlists the help of Kate Beckinsale's feisty heroine to slay Dracula, The Wolfman and his evil henchman.

The film is directed by The Mummy helmer, Stephen Sommers, and is a non-stop special effects extravaganza, in which plot and characterisation barely register.

US reviews reflected this sentiment, with many declaring it to be a dud.

The New York Times, for instance, wrote that 'despite the rococo obsessiveness of its special effects and its voracious sampling of past horror movies, Van Helsing is mostly content to offer warmed-over allusions and secondhand thrills'.

While Variety stated that 'the concoction seems far more contrived than plausible, but the sense of evil overkill is entirely representative of the picture itself, which repeatedly looks ready to blow all its fuses due to sensory overload'.

And the Washington Post found that while, 'there's never a dull moment, but there's also never a moment. It never stops. It's a perpetual-motion machine'.

On a more positive note, the Chicago Tribune wrote that it is 'a movie that's underwritten, overdirected, overproduced and almost constantly over-the-top. But it's also, at its best, a big tongue-in-cheek extravaganza'.

While the Los Angeles Daily News agreed that, 'yes, all of Sommers' vulgarian wrongheadedness is evident in Van Helsing, but this movie also possesses a film buff's respect for its frightening forebears'.

And the Miami Herald decided that it's that 'rare kind of movie where the badness just adds to the fun'.

But the San Francisco Chronicle wrote it off as 'a big, loud, boring wreck'.

While the Houston Chronicle felt that while 'we've seen worse movies - I'm sure of it - but this opening salvo of the summer season is so extravagantly, off-the-wall bad it pushes the others from memory'.

And Entertainment Weekly referred to it, simply, as 'a long, kinetic, yet dreary mess'.

Returning to the positives, and Hollywood Reporter wrote that 'this creature feature is exhilarating fun, a richly designed and often quite funny re-exploration of the movie past'.

While the Chicago Sun-Times felt that it is 'silly and spectacular, and fun'.

But the Boston Globe opined that 'Van Helsing is one excruciatingly loud set piece of CGI hooey after another, and when a character or a plot twist does manage to make you laugh, you're not sure whether it's camp or ineptitude'.

And the New York Daily News rounds up this overview, with the sentiment that 'old monster movies were thrilling in a way that mingled terror, sexuality and a real preference for the monsters over their tormentors. Van Helsing is a kiddie adventure on an endless, meaningless loop'.

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