The Real Monsters
Robert M. Price
This is my time of the year for movies! Iíve had to make sure I park my posterior in one of the increasingly shrinking seats in a movie theatre almost every week lately. Canít risk getting behind or Iíll miss one! Recently Iíve seen The Punisher, Hellboy, and just yesterday Van Helsing. Next week Iíll head out for Troy, written by an acquaintance of mine (Colin Wilson, not Homer! Iím not that old!). Yes, you can see I cultivate a taste for serious cinema. And indeed, these films do have a very serious dimension. Feel free to enjoy them as mindless entertainment if you want. That works fine, too. And movies donít have to have a message for me to enjoy them, but if they do, thatís even better.
Van Helsing, starring Hugh Jackman as the title hero, tries to meld together bits and pieces of many of the 30s and 40s Universal horror films. Its super special effects are breath-taking and there is so much to the 2 Ĺ hour movie that it is easy to lose sight of the forest for all the trees. Like the same directorís The Mummy, there is probably an hour or so too much of a good thing. But it is terrific stuff in many ways.
Here let me just call attention to two messages I found in it. Who knows if the writer/director intended them or not? Trust the tale, not the teller.
The first is the depiction, already in the nineteenth century, of a secret inter-religious brotherhood dedicated to fighting evil all over the world. It is refreshing to see the busy lab complex and library bustling with figures recognizable by their costumes as Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and other holy men united in the same cause. We could use a lot more of that today! There is so much evil out there to battle, we need hardly waste time sniping at each other.
The other message is more in the nature of a political allegory. Youíll see.
Van Helsing is depicted variously in the different Dracula movies. The Hammer Films version, played by the great Peter Cushing, is an erudite, scholarly man who one feels would rather remain in his book-lined study. But he has long since accepted the role destiny assigned him, the only one with the know-how to destroy vampires. What luck! But he dutifully steps up to the plate time and again. Anthony Hopkins (in Francis Ford Coppolaís Bram Stokerís Dracula) comes across as a bit of a wizard in his own right, possibly a dangerous character, so itís a good thing heís on your side!
Hugh Jackmanís version of Van Helsing is more the comic-book hero. He is a mix, most obviously, of Batman, James Bond, and not surprisingly, Wolverine. He is also like the Punisher, in that his heroics go generally unappreciated by those he helps. In fact, he starts seeing himself on "wanted" posters.
Why do the people hate him? They are cowards who hope to get by with merely appeasing evil rather than paying the price of trying to defeat it once and for all. In Transylvania, he manages to kill one of Draculaís horrible "brides" and the villagers want to execute him! Why? Well, all the vamps required of them was a couple of victims per year! That, they figured, they could live with! But the killing of a vampire would surely bring massive reprisals!
Little do they know that Dracula is at work on a "weapon of mass destruction" that will reduce them all to infant formula for his brood of blood-sucking imps!
So the only hope is to take the fight to the enemy. Only Van Helsing is willing to try it. Does this sound familiar to you? Of course, we find ourselves in exactly the same situation today.
Instead of vampires, we face their equally deadly cousins, violent Islamic fanatics with a definite plan to bring down Western Civilization. One of their best weapons is our own dithering, liberal self-hatred, and our political partisanship. Youíve got John Kerry, who did what he could to undermine the war effort he now claims to have been proud of. He and his buddies are quire willing to undermine military morale and the war effort today simply to be able to find something to attack Bush for. The result is that the Democratic Party, once a noble institution, has reduced itself to a contemptible "fifth column," a domestic Bund, shills for Al-Qaida. Nor are they clear-headed enough to realize it. Al Franken is todayís Lord Ha-Ha, Janeanne Garafalo is our Axis Sally.
Go see Van Helsing. But more important: be Van Helsing.
Robert M Price
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