Van Helsing

Oh my, kiddies, this is a very special movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that confused me as much as this one.

Well, apart from “2001: A Space Odyssey” but there the confusion was tempered by the boredom.

I could write down, in order, everything that’s confusing about this movie. In fact, that was my original plan, but then I realized that would take forever. Instead, I’m going to make a list of things that’s strange, stupid or puzzling in it.

As always, I’m assuming you’ve watched the movie already, so I won’t bother with a plot summary.

Let’s begin.

The Battle with the Werewolf

Ok, so the scene has Prince Velkan tied to a post, as bait for the werewolf. When the monster attacks, Velkan leaps up on the pole, grabs a rope and is pulled up. Werewolf falls into a steel cage which is raised into the air. Velkan is about to shoot it, the cage hits him and he drops his gun. The other men in the group start shooting at the werewolf with muskets, and Princess Anna yells at them to get Velkans gun, since it has silver bullets.

First off, why did you have the cage rise into the air? The monster is stuck in a hole! Why raise it up?
Why have a cage at all? Why not just shoot the werewolf when it appears?
And If you knew you were hunting a werewolf, and you knew you needed silver bullets to kill it…. Why the hell did you give the people with the rifles normal ammunition?! WHY BRING WEAPONS YOU KNOW DO NOTHING BUT ANNOY THE MONSTER!?

The fight in the village

Where to start with this? The brides attack during the day. Right away, there’s a problem. They mention that it’s because they’d take Anna off guard. But why attack during the day? Why not attack her when she’s alone in her home? There doesn’t seem to be any guards around, just villagers. See, the problem with attacking during the day is the small issue of BURNING TO DEATH, SCREAMING IN AGONY! That’s the whole point of sleeping during the day! Luckily, it seems the weather is always crap in Romania, so it doesn’t really matter.

But that’s the least of the problems. Among other things, Van Helsing uses his repeater crossbow (and don’t worry, I’ll get to that) and he fires at the brides. He fires at them, as they chase princess Anna down the street. In other words, he’s SHOOTING AT THE PERSON HE’S SENT TO PROTECT! Great job, Gabriel. If anna takes a step in any direction, your mission is a failure.

Soon enough, he figures out that the crossbow bolts are doing absolutely fuck all to the brides. They don’t show any pain, or even annoyance about them. Carl notices this as well, and he comes up with a solution. To put holy water on the crossbow.

It’s a good idea… until you start thinking about it. Then you wonder WHY THE HELL HASN’T HE ALREADY DONE THAT!? They have traveled from Italy to Romania. That’s a trip of at least a week. What the hell were they doing all that time?

And finally, there’s how the fight ends. Carl throws the holy water to Van Helsing, but Verona (one of the brides) catches it in mid air and throws it into a well, telling the other bride, Marishka, to kill the stranger. All seems lost until Carl realizes that the church has holy water. And indeed it does.

In fact, it has holy water outside the church…. COMING FROM A TAP!

I don’t know much about Romanian plumbing history, but I don’t think they had running water in 1888. If they did, what’s the point of the well? And even if they did, they wouldn’t connect it to the church for distributing Holy Water!

So Van Helsing runs to the church with the crossbow, dunks the bow in the water and kills the bride. All well and good…. apart from the fact he dipped only the front of the crossbow. HE DIDN’T DIP THE BOLTS, SO THEY SHOULD BE JUST AS USELESS AS EVER!

Speaking of the which…

The Crossbow

The crossbow in the movie was invented by Carl. He is part of the Knights of the Holy Order, One of the oldest and most powerful organizations in history. He has the resources, the funds and the time to create amazing inventions. So when Van Helsing is ordered to go to Transylvania and kill vampires, Carl gives him the weapons he considers the most fitting for the job.

A Crossbow.

Like I said earlier, this movie takes place in 1888. The Colt Single Action Army revolver was developed in 1873. The Smith and Wesson Model 3 revolver was adopted by US military in 1870. The Winchester “Yellow Boy” Carbine was invented in 1866. Van Helsing himself walks around with two revolvers at all times.

Crossbows, meanwhile, have been outdated as weapons since the 17th century.

Also, the Crossbow is described as “Gas propelled”.

Crossbows are not gas propelled. The ammunition in a cross bow is propelled by, you guessed it, the bow! HENCE WHY IT’S CALLED A FUCKING CROSSBOW! If the gas propels the bolt, you have made a spear gun. But it has a bow, so it cannot be a spear gun.

So, If the gas doesn’t propel the bolt, what does it do? Is it gas operated? That can’t be true, since that term is applied on semi-automatic guns. It means the excess gas from the cartridge cycles the mechanism and reloads the weapon. It does not apply to crossbows, which, again, uses a bow!

And even if the gas cycles the mechanism, surely there’s a better way to do that? CO² gas canisters are not that easy to come by in 1888. Where do they get them? Look it up in a history book. Sodastream wasn’t really a thing in Victorian times. Soft-air guns weren’t that common back then. Why the gas? What was wrong with a spring!? 

What does the gas do?! I am genuinely puzzled! WHAT DOES IT DO?! TELL ME!

I know I’m expecting a sensible explanation from a character who claims to be a genius, and yet thinks that being a friar means you can swear and have one night stands (I admit, my catholic knowledge is a bit rusty, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how that works…) but this is really bugging me!

The Sun-Bomb

This one is fascinating to me. Van Helsing picks up this innocent little steam-punk snow globe paperweight and asks what it is. Carl explains it’s compressed magma from Mt. Vesuvius and pure alkaline from the Gobi desert. Van Helsing asks what it does, and Carl answers that it creates a light with the intensity of the sun. Van Helsing asks what good that’ll do, and Carl says he doesn’t know.

In case you missed that: They are going to TRANSYLVANIA to fight VAMPIRES, and they have a PORTABLE SUN… And NONE OF THEM KNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH IT?!

Then, later in the movie, Carl figures out that, amazingly, it can be used to kill vampires!

ABSOLUTELY GENIUS!

I’ve never seen such a clumsy attempt at “Chekhov’s Gun” in my entire life.

The Knights of the Holy Order

OK, so there’s a secret organization under the Vatican. Of course there is. I’m assuming the reason they are in the basement is because the other offices were already taken by the Opus Dei, the Iscariot Organization and the Illuminati.

But wait, it gets better. See, this organization isn’t just the catholic church. It’s EVERY MAJOR RELIGION ON THE PLANET. In this organization, we see Franciscan monks, Greek Orthodox priests, Muslims and Tibetan monks. Even if those are the only ones, you mean to tell me that all of these religions have put aside their social, political and theological differences and work together to fight evil?

That’s…. a surprisingly uplifting, albeit confusing idea. I like it. Well done.

Valerius’ Deal

In the beginning of the movie we’re given the backstory of the house of Valerius.

Our story begins 450 years ago, when a Transylvanian knight named Valerius the Elder promised God that his family would never rest nor enter heaven until Dracula had been vanquished from their land.

Four and a half century later, they haven’t succeeded, and now there’s only two left.

If they die before Dracula is destroyed, 9 generations will never enter the gates of St. Peter, and will instead “Slip into Purgatory”

(Let’s ignore for a moment that the point of Purgatory is that you go there after you die, and once your soul has been cleansed from sin, you enter Heaven. If you go to Purgatory, going into Heaven is just a matter of time. If anything, they would slip into Limbo.)

A pretty bad deal, considering Dracula can only be killed by a werewolf (for some reason). Now fast forward to later in the movie, and Carl explains the history of Dracula, trying to find a way to his castle.

He explains that Dracula was Valerius the Elders son.
That, by the way, is a load of crap, since Vlad III Dracula’s father was Vlad II Dracul. And don’t tell me this Dracula and Vlad III are not the same person. Vlad III signed his name Vladislaus Dragvlia, the same way Dracula introduces himself in the movie. The original Bram Stoker novel state that the vampire IS the historical figure, and as such share the same backstory.
(Small side note: the historical Vlad III was born 1431 and died 1477, not as this movie claims “Born 1422, murdered 1462”.)

Anyway, We learn that when Dracula died, he made a deal with the devil and was given life anew.

Then we get this line from Carl.

Your ancestor, having sired this evil creature, went to Rome to seek forgiveness. That’s when the bargain was made. He was to kill Dracula in return for eternal salvation of his entire family right down the line, all the way to [Anna].

THAT IS NOT THE SAME DEAL! Who changed the deal? They made it clear that Valerius promised God that until Dracula was destroyed, they would be denied into heaven. But according to his own notes, the deal is that if they kill Dracula, his family will be forever absolved of sin.

Did the catholic church change the deal?! Was that just what they told his descendants, so they would keep trying? Nice going, Knights of the Holy order! you’ve pretty much doomed an entire family, calling down the anger of an nigh-unkillable monster on them, hellbent on wiping them of the face of the planet.

And finally…

Dracula’s Plan

Let’s talk a bit about Dracula. He is, by far my favorite character in the movie. Part of it is because he’s played by Richard Roxburgh.

I mentioned him briefly when I talked about “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, but I didn’t go into much detail.

Richard Roxburgh is, to me, a fascinating actor. He’s like a bizarro-Alan Rickman. I’ll explain.

Alan Rickman is good at playing villains. Whether it’s the subtle and suave Hans Gruber or the loud, Heart-digging-with-a-spoon-threatening Sheriff of Nottingham, he’s a great villain.
But from what I’ve heard, he doesn’t LIKE being good at playing villains. He wants to be the hero that comes in and saves the day. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

Richard Roxburgh is.. well, I don’t want to call him a bad actor, since that seems a bit harsh. He plays most roles fairly similar. He’s at his best when he’s playing the smug villain. But he LOVES playing villains.

Now, it’s possible I could be reading into it wrong, and he may actually hate being the villain, but the energy and the glee he seemingly has in every villain role makes him so entertaining to watch, I’ll gladly overlook any flaws in his acting abilities.

As for Dracula, the character, it’s pretty much the perfect role for him. He’s smug, he’s over-the-top and he gets the best lines. There is a great moment when Velkan is being strapped into the machine, screaming at Dracula, when he starts dancing for seemingly no reason. That just seems pointless, until later in the movie when you find out that he can hear peoples heartbeats, and he mentions he can “almost dance to the beat”. He is mocking Velkan by DANCING TO HIS HEARTBEAT.

Not to mention having one of my favourite movie lines of all time

Velkan: I would rather die than help you!

Dracula: Oh, don’t be boring. Everyone who says that die.

Now, you might wonder why I’m talking about this, instead of Dracula’s plan, like promised?

Simple. I need to remind myself of something good, before I delve into utter insanity.

OK, so Dracula needs the Frankensteins monster. He needs the monster to raise his children.

First off, there’s this question.
How the hell does he have children? They say that “Vampires are the living dead. It makes sense their children are born dead.

If they are born dead, how do they grow in the womb? And do the brides give birth to those big cocoon things? And they do that hundreds, maybe thousands of times, with each birthing? I know vampires have accelerated healing, but damn, that must be horrible.

Suddenly I understand why Dracula says he feels no love, fear, joy or sorrow. He has seen things that can NEVER be unseen!

But here’s another question. Why does he want to raise his children from the dead?

He mentions he wants the continuation of his species. But if he dies, everything made by him dies as well. Continuation of his species implies he want them to continue after he’s dead… but he lives forever….
And if there are more vampires in the world, there’s less food for him…

So it’s not to leave a legacy. It’s not because he loves them, since he doesn’t love anybody. He mentions that it’s because his brides demand it…

That’s it? I mean, I guess three women nagging you for a kid might get tiresome after a couple of centuries, but isn’t he their master? I’m not trying to justify some chauvinistic agenda, but Dracula is hopelessly evil. Shouldn’t his “Brides” be little more than glorified servants? Have I missed a page in how vampires function?

But OK, he wants to raise his children for whatever reason. So to do this he needs the Monster. To avoid this, Van Helsing hides the Monster in a crypt.

Then, during the mask ball, Dracula acquires the Monster anyway. How? By raising the bodies of the dead and having them bring the Monster to him.

Did you catch that?

In order to achieve his goal of raising the dead… HE RAISED THE DEAD!

WHY THE FLYING FUCK DOES HE NEED THE MONSTER, IF HE CAN RAISE THE DEAD AT WILL!?

So, that’s it. I’m sure I’ll find more things confusing about it, the more I watch it, but I think these are the biggest flaws. In conclusion, what do I think of the movie?

I love it.

I’m not joking. I absolutely love this movie.

You might be wondering why. Why do I like this movie? How can I like this movie, if it’s so stupid?

That’s just it. It’s stupid, but the thing is, it KNOWS it’s stupid. It knows it’s not going to be a great epic story, so it doesn’t try, and instead just has fun with the story.

It’s flawed, certainly. But my god, It’s entertaining.

This movie, more than anything, is a perfect example of “So bad it’s good”

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