So, I promised four things to you, my audience: a Countdown, a Favorite, a Cineverse post, and a Challenge. I’ve done two of those, and here’s the third: I am picking my favorite Halloween-themed movie! 😉
(and starting next week, a 15-Day Doctor Who Challenge! stay tuned!) 🙂
This was interesting for me, because I never picked a favorite from this category before. I’m not much of a one for the horror genre either, so most of them appropriate titles have never even been on my radar.
My first thought was a classic from my childhood, Hocus Pocus. I mean, a trio of Salem witches coming back from the dead on All Hallow’s Eve to suck the lives out of the town’s children? Of course! It’s hilarious and sweet and just a little scary for the kiddies. But then I thought again.
I could easily pick one of the Scooby-Doo movies. There’s certainly enough to choose from, and that is one name that has been tied up in Halloween since it first aired nearly five decades ago. But, then again, if I picked one of them, I’d have to argue why I prefer it over the rest. No thank you! At least, not right now. Maybe next year. 😉
I considered other titles, including Young Frankenstein and Warm Bodies, but I couldn’t quite decide on one. And don’t think I didn’t think of picking a TV show instead, like Grimm or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both of which are pretty strong candidates. However, for when one is looking for something quicker and easier to watch on a single spooky evening, I went with a movie.
I was about to go with Hocus Pocus after all when it hit me: there’s one movie I easily prefer over the others, simply because it suits my tastes, and I’ve watched it again and again over the years. I should have thought of it before!
My personal favorite movie for Halloween is… Van Helsing!
Sure, it might be a little cheesy by some standards, but allow me to gush about it anyway, and maybe defend it a bit. 🙂
Released in 2004 and starring Hugh Jackman as the titular Gabriel Van Helsing and Kate Beckinsale as Anna Valerious, Van Helsing is a suspenseful, action-packed adventure as well as a tribute to the lore of the classic monsters, especially the Frankenstein creature, the wolfman, and Count Dracula.
In this adaptation of the classics, the main hero, Gabriel Van Helsing, is sent to Transylvania by a secret order of holy knights to slay Count Dracula before he murders the last two members of the Valerious family, Velkan and Anna. Over the course of his struggle, Van Helsing meets the Frankenstein monster, who is essential to Dracula’s plans but also unwilling, hiding from the vampire’s servants.
Frankenstein’s monster, played by Shuler Hensley, is an especially composite character—a summary of the legend. Though he is eloquent like Shelley’s creature, he spends a good deal of time screaming, yelling, roaring, and snarling, like the speechless monster that is a Hollywood icon. He has properties from both ends of the spectrum, and some modern twists, such as the copious amount of electricity that runs through his flesh.
The cast play their roles with memorable skill. Hugh Jackman is the rough-around-the-edges hero; Kate Beckinsale portrays a proud, defiant warrior princess; David Wenham is the genius Carl, a friar whose antics balance the darker tone of the film with humor. Shuler Hensley, as Frankenstein’s creature, is emotional both in his eloquence and in his screaming, the tragic figure forever doomed as an outcast. The performance of Count Vladislaus Dracula by Richard Roxburgh is likely the most memorable in the film. If his melodramatic manner is any indication, apparently being immortal and heartless for four centuries leaves one a bit… unstable.
The cinematography in this film is also exquisite. The landscapes, ranging from nineteenth-century Paris, Rome, and Budapest to the frozen mountains and dark forests of Romania, lend to an epic feel of the adventure. The battles between Van Helsing and various creatures of the night seem practically real, more suspenseful than flashy. The list goes on, including the castles, a laboratory, and the interaction of characters, all done with inspiring skill. The lighting, editing, and framing of each scene are crafted with attention to every dramatic detail of humor, suspense, and even a little romance. The CGI monsters in particular are so realistic that one could hardly believe they aren’t actually watching real monsters in a real environment.
All of this is set to an exceptional soundtrack. At times of action and emotional tension, the music is fast and pounding. When Count Dracula overshadows the purer heroes, the rhythm is a little slower, each beat resonating for a moment, lending to the sense of impending doom, enhancing the desperation of the heroes’ struggle. In the quiet moments of sorrow, and especially when peace is found amidst that sorrow, the music is slow, sweeping, tender, and ultimately triumphal.
All in all, I just have a really fun time watching this movie. The drama might feel a bit overdone at times, but they compensate by constantly raising the stakes higher and higher, both for the heroes and for the entire world. There are some plot holes, too, which could do with some plugging, but it still functions, for the most part. Most of all, the theme might seem simple to some, but I like it.
In the end, after wading through all the horror and blood and loss, the meaning of the movie comes clear, and it is something I personally love: there is a brighter side of death.
And that’s not a bad message to put out there, especially on the same night the dead return to the land of the living. 🙂