Unfortunately, the wooden stakes that critics and audiences drove through the heart of Van Helsing last spring didn't prevent this horror of a monster movie from being resurrected on video. Monster movies can often be forgiven for critical shortcomings as long as they offer a fright or two, but Universal's attempt to build a franchise by combining its Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolf Man characters resulted in one decidedly unscary film. Writer-director Stephen Sommers creates characters, plot, and action sequences more reminiscent of Saturday-morning cartoons than the classic 1930s and '40s horror films that he claims to revere.
Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing, a 19th-century Batman who reluctantly battles evil with a rapid-fire crossbow and handheld circular saws, comes across as an action figure who is better suited to a videogame than the big screen. (The DVD does include a version of the Van Helsing Xbox game.) The computer-enhanced villains in this CGI schlockfest may be visually stunning, but are about as credible as those in Clash of the Titans. Sommers' commentary, meanwhile, is stuffed with proud reminders like ''Nothing in this shot is real!'' Finally, CGI appears to have bitten off more than it can chew, but even if computer-animated characters are the wave of the future, it's a relief to know that audiences won't embrace them without a sharp script. Admits producer Bob Ducsay: ''I don't think that he thought it through,'' referring to the hero's strategizing in one scene. Same could be said for the screenplay. Counters Sommers: ''But it was really cool and cinematic.'' And that, my friends, is how to sweep the Razzies and squander $148 million.