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"Van Helsing"

MASHING TOGETHER characters of horror movies may have sounded like a good idea to Stephen Sommers. Which is probably why he wanted to make a film like "Van Helsing." But in here the true horror is the badly told story itself and not the orgy of screeching, howling vampires, crackling lightening and rope swinging that the director fills the film with.

Besides, these computer-generated monsters are beginning to get rather oppressive. And the long action-packed narration leaves you spent instead of exhilarated. It would seem by the relentless onslaught that if something works keep at it, and so the viewer is subject to innumerable escapades, ariel attacks by the winged brides of Dracula, gravity-defying acrobatics and explosions.

Van Helsing a 19-century hero, a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones, kills evil things and is now on an assignment from the Vatican to take charge and finish the seemingly imperishable Count Dracula in Transylvania.

Grim-faced, wearing gorgeous costumes and sporting a nice, long hairstyle, he heads for gloomy Dracula land where the Count has forged an unholy alliance with Dr. Frankenstein to create a monster (Schuler Hensley) for terrible experiments.

Earlier, torch-bearing villagers have crashed into the castle and have appeared to kill the monster. But a year later, the Count is still bloodthirsty and has spawned thousands of gooey egg sacs through his three brides wearing glittery outfits that vanish when they turn into grotesque flying vamps. And he needs the electricity conducted from the monster to make his children live.

He is also trying to destroy the last of the gypsy king's lineage, the beautiful Anna in high heels and skintight clothes (Kate Beckinsale) and brother Velken (now turned into a werewolf by the wicked Count).

As Van Helsing is trying to kill the Count, he is haunted by memories of a past. Accompanied by his diffident sidekick Carl (David Wenham), the film progresses from one episode to another. And as he zeros in on the bloodsucker, he unearths buried secrets of his own origins.

For Hugh Jackson, playing Helsing, this is certainly not a vehicle for histrionics — overshadowed as he is by the omnipresent and not always seamless CGI effects. And Richard Roxburgh as Dracula seems more lazy than scary. He looks perpetually like a character in a Mel Brooks film without the humour.


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