The New 'Van Helsing' Movie Was Inspired By Mad Max

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.

Heisserer sat down with HitFix to discuss Lights Out, his new horror movie opening this week, but the interview also touched on the Van Helsing movie, which he is scripting alongside Jon Spaihts. While he couldn't say much (the project is still very much in the early stages), he did drop this interesting tidbit about how they plan to approach the character:

I can only say that early on, our inspiration for his behavior and his mannerisms was all in Mad Max.

A comparison to George Miller's iconic post-apocalyptic action hero is an interesting one, because Max Rockatansky isn't your average leading man. He's unhinged and dangerous, a man capable of surviving great odds with very few resources and even fewer allies. He's unfriendly, a man of few words, and tends to vanish as soon as the job as done. Put that man in a ratty suit and tuck a college degree in his back pocket and I'd say you have an interesting riff on the Van Helsing character.

However, the most interesting quote from Heisserer concerns the larger monsters universe and directly addresses the one question I've been asking ever since this whole endeavor was announced. What are these movies going to feel like? Horror? Action/adventure? How about a little bit of everything, with each film taking on a different tone as necessary:

I can say that the decision that a lot of us made was to go and just write the best movie we could in our own corner and make sure it's good on its own...and didn't necessarily need to link arm-in arm-with anybody else. And to be tonally different from the other films. One may be a little bit more comedic, action-adventure-y, one can be very much a traditional horror piece. That kind of thing. And then we'll see what happens as the projects evolve and we all get a chance to convene and talk, and make sure the movies feel like they're all in the same world.

I'd be perfectly happy with a new version of The Mummy that leaned a little more heavily on action in the Indiana Jones mold, but that would be the incorrect approach for The Wolf Man, which begs for a more somber and horror-driven approach. If the writers and directors involved in these films are given the freedom to play around with tone and genre, these could end up being some very interesting movies.