05th Apr2021

‘Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Charlie Bond, Helen Crevel, Tom Hendryk, Joe Street, Mark Topping | Written and Directed by Steve Lawson

I know what you’re thinking… “Oh my god, not another take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula?!” Mainly because I was thinking the same too. But there’s a very good reason this film is called Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing and not Dracula. Because Dracula is nowhere to be seen in this film!

The film tells the story of Arthur Holmwood’s fiancée Lucy (Charlie Bond), who falls victim to a mysterious illness. Turning to a former love rival, Dr John Seward, for help; Seward calls in his mentor, Professor Van Helsing, who quickly uncovers the terrifying truth – the illness that afflicts Lucy is in fact a vampires curse, and the only cure is a fresh supply of human blood. The discovery of several bodies each drained of their blood forces Van Helsing and Seward into a race against time to destroy the curse once and for all…

Yes, that’s right. Here we got one half of the classic vampire tale told from the perspective of those involved in trying to save Lucy. Which also means we get more of a soap-style drama rather than a horror film; especially as more time is spent here watching the jealous rivalry between Holmwood (Tom Hendryk) and Seward (Joe Street) unfold rather than anything vampire-related. In fact there’s no mention of vampirism made throughout most of Lawson’s film! All of which means Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing occasionally falters into the mudane.

Eventually, after messing around with blood transfusions and scientific experimentation, Van Helsing (Mark Topping) comes to the conclusion that Lucy has joined the ranks of the undead; with Lucy rising from the dead and beginning a killing spree… starting with one of the maids of the house. Of course Holmwood is the skeptic here, never believing Van Helsing or Seward until he sees it with his own eyes. Which he does see eventually, with Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing finally kicking in high gear in the final act, giving British scream queen Charlie Bond (Pandemonium, Strippers vs Werewolves) a chance to shine.

Though to be fair to Bond, even with her smaller role – the film focussing more on the three men involved in this story for the most part – she outshines the rest of the films cast; managing to sell the deceptively innocent nature of Lucy in the beginning before unleashing her fangs, literally, and hamming it up as a vampiric seductress!

Don’t go into Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing expecting a big-budget horror a la the Hugh Jackman movie. Instead Lawson’s film is a low-budget and small-scale affair that focuses on character development and atmosphere rather than blood and guts. Just like a myriad of other Dracula tales before it to be honest. But what does this one have over the others? Nothing much, apart from a subtle and nuanced way of connecting Dracula’s vampiric legacy to one Jack the Ripper… And ultimately a remarkable love story between a vampire and her fiance.

Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing is out now on DVD from High Fliers Films.


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