Young women are being murdered in London. The reference, of course, is to Jack the Ripper,but in this story, the killer is Mr. Hyde, who is collecting their souls so that Dr. Jekyll (no moremoral than his monstrous alter ego) can transform Queen Victoria (with whom he is obsessed)into a young woman. The Vatican sends Van Helsing to London to stop the monster, and theensuing adventure sets the scene for the opening Mr. Hyde battle in the feature film.
Though designed…almost entirely as a promotional gimmick, the cartoon is more gruesomeand atmospheric than the bloated mess of CGI that hit the theatres. Unlike the movie, this isSUPPOSED to look like a cartoon (though even it shifts from cell to computer animation, andthe integration isn’t entirely successful). The script (by Canadian SF/horror/thriller writers Judithand Garfield Reeves-Stevens) plays things fairly straight, except where they are saddled withStephen Sommers’ inevitable comic-relief sidekick (here that annoying monk). The mix of actionand horror is an awkward one, but at 33 minutes, the cartoon doesn’t outstay its welcome, isexciting, and its plot is amusingly preposterous. Still, it’s amazing how good The League ofExtraordinary Gentlemen is looking in retrospect.
An energetic 5.1 track keeps the excitement level up. There are plenty of loud surroundeffects and music stings, and there is no distortion. The voices (with all the characters voicedby the actors who play them in the live-action version) are clear and never drowned out. Solidwork overall.
The picture is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, but is not anamorphic. The zoom necessaryon 16×9 monitors doesn’t increase the grain (which is non-existent), but does reduce thesharpness a little bit. The colours are moody, warm and atmospheric, and the look of the transferis in most respects very handsome.
A few short promotional featurettes here. “Van Helsing: Behind the Screams” is a making-ofpiece about the theatrical film, and is a good candidate for most cringe-inducing featurette ever.Hugh Jackman talks about his conception of the character in a short interview. “Animatic toAnimation” has a PIP of the animatic while a sequence of the cartoon plays. “The Making of theVan Helsing Game” is the longest featurette (just under seven minutes). It opens with a designercommenting that the movie’s script was suited as few others are to becoming a game. He seemscompletely unaware of the sad irony behind that all-too-true statement. The menu’s intro isanimated and scored. The main screen is scored, but the animated is limited to a pulsing mistaround the title.
A passably entertaining half-hour, with animation varying from the impressive to theacceptable. Better than the feature, but not by a heck of a lot.
Special Features List
- “Van Helsing: Behind the Screams” Featurette
- Animatic to Animation
- Interview with Hugh Jackman
- The Making of the Van Helsing Game Featurette