Thanks to the back-to-back blockbusters ''The Mummy'' and ''The Mummy Returns,'' it's safe to say writer-director Stephen Sommers owns monster movies. He's also in possession of Universal's undying affection: Those Egyptian vengefests earned the studio a tidy $357 million in domestic receipts. So who better than Sommers to ransack the Uni vaults again in search of more classic characters ripe for revival?
The $148 million, F/X-heavy (to the tune of 980 effects shots) ''Van Helsing'' is a 19th-century tale of an emotionally conflicted monster hunter who combats Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley), and the Wolf Man (Gap hunk Will Kemp) -- subjects close to the director's heart. ''I know my lore,'' says Sommers. ''That's one thing none of the geeks can get me on. I AM a geek!''
Just don't expect the film to be all bloody stakes through the heart and full moons. ''If people see it just because they think they're going to see a guy facing three monsters, then so be it,'' says star Hugh Jackman. ''But they're going to get a pleasant surprise. It really is an epic adventure, and at the center is a very touching romance.'' To wit, ''Underworld'''s Kate Beckinsale turns up as a Transylvanian-accented vampire huntress who, it turns out, has her sights set on Dracula's head -- and Van Helsing's heart. (Other geek attractions: Dracula's undead brides, hybrid creatures made up of real beauties enhanced with computer-generated effects.)
''He has a certain amount of pathos and believability,'' Jackman says of his character, adding that ''there's also a very heroic, swashbuckling element.'' And love story aside, the film allowed Jackman to relieve some stress by kicking some monster butt. ''Let's face it, it was a boyhood dream,'' he jokes. ''It beats yoga.''
THE GOOD NEWS The movie's high concept sounds way cool.
THE BAD NEWS The last high-concept flick to combine several classic characters was ''The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.''