- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Discs: 1
- Rating: PG-13
- Studio: Universal Studios
- Blu-ray Disc Release Date: September 15, 2009
- List Price: $26.98
Overall The Film Video Quality Audio Quality Supplemental Materials
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG and thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Writer/Director Stephen Sommers’ Van Helsing is an adrenalin filled horror romp that takes its queue from all the classic B-Movie horror flicks of old. His task in Van Helsing was to take Bram Stoker’s Dr. Van Helsing from the novel Dracula and update him, making him younger so audiences could be introduced to him earlier in his career so to speak. So what audiences get in this film is High Jackman as Gabriel Van Helsing, the slayer of all things evil. When we first meet Van Helsing, he’s battling the infamous Mr. Hyde. Van Helsing works for a clandestine order of the Catholic Church and now he has been tasked to head to Transylvania to slay Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and rescue Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) and her brother, the last of an ancient bloodline on the Eastern front keeping the evil creatures at bay.
Upon arriving in Transylvania, Van Helsing not only discovers that Dracula has turned Anna’s brother into a werewolf, but that the vampire and his brides are plotting to use Dr. Frankenstein’s (Samuel West) research to create an army of vampire creatures that must be stopped — queue ominous organ music.
Sommers’ movie manages to tie into just about every horror movie cliché from the past sixty or seventy years of popular culture and cinema. What it doesn’t succeed in doing is putting together any sort of cohesive story. His plot is all over the place and the dialogue is just awful. Sommers chooses instead to rely on relentless amounts of CGI-laden effects and action sequences that turn Van Helsing into something resembling a video game or graphic novel come to life. There’s no doubt that it is pulse-pounding entertainment. There’s no time for breathing or exposition in Van Helsing; one is hardly over digesting all the action from flying bat-like vampiresses when there is a werewolf attack, then on to an explosion or two.
Sommers does try his best to make Van Helsing honor the creature features of old, he even goes as far as to start off his film in black and white and stages his own version of villagers taking to Frankenstein’s castle with torches. The trouble with Van Helsing is, however, that it shows no originality at all. It’s just a patchwork of classic horror icons thrown together clumsily. Still, Van Helsing does have a certain amount of goofy charm. It’s a little over two hours of action packed mindless fun and if you don’t think too much about it, it’s certainly a perfect time waster. It may be a great film for the upcoming holiday season if you want something more silly than scary.
Darkly lit, atmospheric, and filled with an onslaught of special effects, Van Helsing arrives on Blu-ray Disc in a superb 1.85:1 AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encoding from Universal looking clean, sharp and wonderfully detailed. Black levels are obsidian and stable with strong delineation of detail in the pervasively dark scenes. There are no compression artifacts to spoil the visual presentation and neither do processing issues such as edge enhancement get in the way. The opening sequences in black and white look particularly sharp and detailed, but the entire film looks strong, with extended background detail and a sharp, film-like quality.
Wow! What an incredible aural assault is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that Van Helsing is provided with. Thunderous low frequencies, incredible dynamic range and wonderful use of the surround channels to immerse the listener in a full 360° soundscape define Van Helsing. Foley effects fly around the room, rainstorms surround with the crack of thunder and bats screech past your ears. Dialogue is clean and never lost in the commotion whilst composer Alan Silvestri’s score sounds airy and smooth. Only occasionally do the higher frequencies becoming a little fatiguing keeping this from being an absolutely perfect mix, but it is reference material nonetheless.
Van Helsing on Blu-ray Disc in packed to the brim with supplemental materials and interactive features making this release a truly good value.
The supplements available on this release are:
- Feature Commentary with Director Stephen Sommers and Editor/Producer Bob Ducsay
- Feature Commentary with Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Hensley, and Will Kemp
- Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend:
- Frankenstein’s Monster (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:09.25) — An analysis of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein’s monster.
- Dracula (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:11.37) — Experts discuss the folklore of vampires in human culture.
- The Werewolves (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:12.28) — This featurette explores the mythology of werewolves throughout popular culture.
- The Women of Van Helsing: Anna and Dracula’s Brides (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:14.29) — This featurette puts the spotlight on the gorgeous and talented women of Van Helsing.
- The Legend of Van Helsing (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:10.08) — This featurette explores Bram Stoker’s original vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing.
- Track the Adventure — Choose a location and reveal the secrets behind each fantastic set:
- Dracula’s Castle (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:07.50
- Frankenstein’s Lab (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:06.31)
- The Burning Windmill (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:06.31)
- The Village (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:08.08)
- The Vatican Armory (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:05.28)
- Bringing the Monsters to Life (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:10.02) — The filmmakers discuss the visual effects involved in bringing the world of Van Helsing and its creatures to life.
- You Are in the Movie! (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:04.29) — Behind-the-scenes footage captured from tiny hidden cameras mounted on the actual film cameras.
- The Music of Van Helsing (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:09.41) — Alan Silvestri discusses composing and recording the music for Van Helsing.
- Bloopers (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:05.39)
- Dracula’s Lair is Transformed (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:02.41) — Time lapse footage of the building and disassembly of Dracula’s coffin room and Dracula’s laboratory.
- The Masquerade Ball Scene “Unmasked” (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:25.29) Stephen Sommers and choreographer Debra Brown discuss putting together the Cirque du Soleil inspired masquerade ball sequence.
- The Art of Van Helsing (1.33:1; 480i/60) — Character sketches:
- Velkan Werewolf
- The Brides
- Van Helsing Wolf
- Mr. Hyde
- U-Control — Picture-in-Picture commentaries and behind-the-scenes footage.
- D-Box Motion Code
- $5.00 Halloween Candy Cash
The Definitive Word
Full of action and thin on the plot, Van Helsing isn’t exactly classic cinema — it’s not even classic horror, but it it may be the perfect popcorn flick (or is that candy corn flick?) for the upcoming ghoulish holiday season. Just turn off your mind and it may offer a couple of hours of silly, if perplexing, fun. The Blu-ray Disc release is complete reference material all the way, so you can show off your home theatre system assuredly with this release.