van helsing movie

There’s an entire generation of moviegoers who only know the character of Van Helsing from the abysmal 2004 movie starring Hugh Jackman, and that should be a recognized as one of our great international shames. Introduced in the pages of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing is one of the horror genre’s greatest heroes, a character who has endured as long as the titular vampire himself. Before he was reimagined as a globetrotting 19th century James Bond, Van Helsing was a scientist and a scholar, a professor whose greatest weapon against the supernatural was his vast knowledge of science and the occult. Although his presence in the public domain has allowed any number of actors to play him (Casper Van Dien, anyone?), Van Helsing has been memorably portrayed by brilliant actors like Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence Olivier, and Peter Cushing, who built a cornerstone of his magnificent career around hurting Christopher Lee’s Dracula.

My fondness for this character made the Hugh Jackman movie hurt even more, but it also gives me hope that the new solo outing for the character being planned as part of Universal’s new cinematic monsters universe could be good. There have been incredible cinematic Van Helsings before and there is always room for more…and screenwriter Eric Heisserer is saying some very interesting things.

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universal monsters reboot

At their best, the classic Universal monster movies are masterpieces. At their worst, they remain fascinating windows into long-gone era. Taken together, they are an untouchable library of iconic characters, brilliant moments, and smart filmmakers making the absolute most out of what should have been schlock. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and the rest of their companions represent the high water mark of horror. Everything else chases them.

And Universal knows this. They know that their studio (currently nearing the end of a landmark year) was built on a foundation of horror movies. They know that these characters are a vital part of their legacy. They know that they’re due for a resurrection and have been taking their sweet time quietly constructing a series of reboots that will return the monsters to the screen. Now, details of how they’re approaching these reboots have begun to trickle out online, and it’s like watching someone handle precious relics – the people involved may be smart, but you’re still nervous as hell.

Read on for more details on the Universal monsters reboot.

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The ‘Van Helsing’ Reboot Finds New Writers

Neil LaBute making Van Helsing

Van Helsing is a bad movie. It’s about as soulless as a popcorn movie gets. Director Stephen Sommers brought some fun to the original Mummy reboot, but he stripped Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Van Helsing of their appeal in his garish film. There’s been talk of a reboot for a few years now, and it was once speculated the film would be directed by Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak) and star the picture’s producer, Tom Cruise. Universal is still developing the film, and they just brought aboard two screenwriters to co-write Van Helsing.

Learn more about the project after the jump.

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Universal Monster directors

Universal has had a little trouble bringing their classic monsters back to life. Neither The Wolfman nor Dracula Untold made kids excited about the return of these icons. But Universal’s current plan is to create a world similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and if that happens, there’s a few directors we’d like to see take a crack at these monsters.

Read more after the jump.

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van helsing

There have been two great depictions of Van Helsing on the big screen. Edward Van Sloan played him as a strong-willed doctor in 1931’s Dracula. Then over 60 years later Sir Anthony Hopkins gave a completely different performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s (Apocalypse Now) adaptation, as a wild, funny, and arguably crazy Van Helsing. When Universal attempted to turn the character into an action hero played by Hugh Jackman in 2004 with Stephen Sommer’s CG-infested monster movie, the result was disastrous. Now, the character might return, except this time around on the small screen. Playwright, writer, and director Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men) is working on a Van Helsing show for Syfy.

Learn more about the TV series after the jump.

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It worked for Marvel and now Universal is hoping it works for their monsters. A new report says Universal Studios is in the early stages of creating “a substantial new production endeavor” which will “expand and unify” the Universal Monsters properties, including characters such as Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. The initial architects of this endeavor are Alex Kurtzman, of Transformers, Star Trek and Amazing Spider-Man 2 fame, and Chris Morgan, who wrote the bulk of the Fast and Furious movies. Potentially, this means all of the above characters would get their own movies before teaming up for an Avengers-type finale. Read more about this possible Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe below. Read More »


Though each of the classic Universal monster movies (starting with Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and The Mummy) stands alone, by the time producers were done with all the characters, some had started to cross over into one another’s films. So it’s no surprise to hear that there are ideas for a Marvel Studios-style “monsters universe” at Universal now.

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have been working on two monster-releated reboots for Universal: The Mummy and Van Helsing. Now Orci explains that, in coming up with ideas for each, the notion of “a universe” has started to sprout. Read More »

Universal is in an interesting position now. The studio is free of the contract with Hasbro that had it dedicated to developing board-game properties for some time, and has started to settle into a place where it floats on the performance of big comedies (Ted), the occasional well-chosen pop-culture adaptation (Les Miserables), and affordable franchise installments (Fast & Furious, Bourne) rather than massive tentpoles.

And so Universal is working on sequels to the giant hit Ted and horror performer Mama. In a new interview, studio chairman Adam Fogelson explains that he also may made an Identity Thief sequel (“we created great characters, so we’ll discuss how to re-pair Jason [Bateman] and Melissa going forward”) and an “at long last” film version of Wicked (“I believe that we are collectively moving toward Wicked coming to the screen sooner rather than later”).

But the real focus is on those franchise installments, including another Snow White and the Huntsman movie, and the new Mummy and Van Helsing films. Read More »

We’ll very likely see another film featuring Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman character from Snow White and the Huntsman, but the precise details of that SWATH sequel seem up in the air. A small part of the uncertainty around that project is due to the public and embarrassing affair between Snow White director Rupert Sanders and his star Kristen Stewart. It’s a thing I hate even mentioning, because it should have nothing to do with anything other than their lives, but in this case it seems to be having some ripples in the film business as well.

So there’s another big project that Universal wants to get moving: the new version of Van Helsing that has Tom Cruise attached to star and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Cowboys & Aliens, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) scripting. And it’s starting to look like we might see Sanders stepping in to direct that film, with the potential Snow White and the Huntsman sequel going to another director. Read More »

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Universal’s last attempt to bring vampire hunter extraordinaire Van Helsing to the big screen resulted in the ridiculous mess that was 2004’s Van Helsing, but the studio’s gearing up for another try. Tom Cruise has been attached to star in a new version of the film for a few years now, and its producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have started talking up the differences between their Van Helsing and previous Van Helsings.

Long story short: Expect this reboot to be grittier and more realistic. Read Kurtzman’s comments after the jump.

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