A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro
I cannot really begrudge anybody their favorite stupid times at the movies, especially given that I have my stupid-movie enthusiasms. I think every moviegoer does.
That said, as somebody to whom stories in general *matter* – I am deeply depressed whenever intelligent people defend VAN HELSING in particular, given that the level of contempt that movie shows for its audience is downright toxic.
This is not just a movie that pushes the stupidity envelope. It is a movie that razes entire forests to manufacture the manila.
I mean, this is a movie that simply could not be bothered to have Van Helsing find the Frankenstein monster by showing his great intelligence, or his deductive skill, or any of the vast experience he has accrued from literally centuries as a monster hunter; no, it simply has him take two steps away from his prior action scene and fall through a hole in the Earth. Dracula has been tearing apart the countryside looking for the beast. Van Helsing falls through a hole. Nobody intelligent would ever tolerate a cop movie whose hero found the kidnapped girl by skidding on a patch of oil and accidentally driving his squad car through the plate glass window of the random abandoned store where the kidnapper has been keeping her. Nobody intelligent would ever tolerate a spy movie whose hero found the secret document by having a random wind suck it out an open window and deposit it in his hands while he was randomly walking around outside on his way to dinner. Nobody intelligent would ever tolerate a science fiction movie whose hero must comb the entire galaxy for one alien monster and crashes his starship on the one planet in a vast cluster where the son of a bitch is hiding. If any of these things happened in most movies watched by intelligent people, they would shout “Pfaaah!” and reject the misshapen idiocy before them, with prejudice. And yet there are actually fans who defend VAN HELSING.
This is also a movie that introduces Kate Beckinsale as the last surviving member of the only family to ever successfully fight the vampires, and then TWO SCENES LATER has her strut into a scene corset and all and declare that until Van Helsing showed up, nobody ever dreamed that anybody could ever kill one. I mean, this is the screenwriting equivalent of that old party game where you pass around a piece of paper and have everybody add a sentence to a story, constantly folding over the paper so you get a nonsensical series of non sequiturs. Nobody intelligent would ever accept a sports movie where somebody was introduced to us as the heavyweight boxing champion of the world and two scenes later has him say that he’s never actually won a fight. Nobody intelligent would ever accept a medical drama where a character was introduced to us as the greatest surgeon of his age and two scenes later had him ask what a spleen was. Nobody intelligent would ever accept a heist movie which presented us with a master jewel thief who has been staying one step ahead of the cops his entire life and then have him break into a parking meter in broad daylight. If any of these things happened in most movies watched by intelligent people, they would shout “Pfaah!” and reject the misshapen idiocy before them, with prejudice. And yet there are actually fans who defend VAN HELSING.
This is also, most unforgivably, a movie that has Van Helsing bitten by a werewolf on the night of the full moon, and then greets the coming of the very next dawn with the information that he must kill the werewolf or become one himself upon the next full moon, two nights hence. This is a movie that posits a two-day month – or, at the most charitable interpretation, a thirty-day month with a full moon that takes a night off. This is only possible because the makers of the movie have so MUCH contempt for you that they cannot imagine you applying common sense and what you know of the real world to a fantasy situation. Nobody intelligent would ever accept a non-fantasy romance where the boy and girl make love and she gives birth, literally, the next morning. Nobody intelligent would ever accept a historical gladiator movie where Spartacus called in an air strike. Nobody intelligent would ever accept a mountain climbing drama where the hero fell off the cliff and managed to arrest his fall by flapping his arms real hard. And yet there are actually fans who defend VAN HELSING.
BEYOND THIS…*beyond* its aggressive stupidity…the movie is spastically edited, moronically written, plotted for an audience with attention-deficit disorder, utterly without any real wit beyond bathroom humor, and so loud and unpleasant that any story there might be is drowned out by bombast. STYLE is a harder thing to argue…but really, VAN HELSING is written and paced as if the makers were afraid that a single scene of character and nuance would would reduce a bored audience to defecating in their hands and writing on the walls with their own poop.
I have had people, intelligent people, tell me about this movie and other movies like it that it didn’t have to make sense, that all they want when they go to the movies is a chance to turn their brains off and enjoy the spectacle of shirtless heroes and sexy heroines posing photogenically among property damage – as if you can’t have adventure, or even cheap thrills, in the context of a movie that doesn’t treat your brain like a gallon of Rocky Road while taking on the function of a heated ice cream scoop. When stupid people tell me they can enjoy VAN HELSING, in particular, I wince inside but nod in silent acceptance, aware that it was made for them, after all. When intelligent people say the same thing I get a little upset, look at what’s available at the local multiplex, and return to the mantra, “Again: this is why we can’t have nice things.”