Perhaps one of the most ambitious films to include Dracula arrived in theaters back in 2004, and that was Van Helsing, a monster hunter film starring Hugh Jackman. The film was intended to launch a series of films (didn’t happen), but what really made the film so ambitious was that it brought together Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s Monster in the same film for the first time in decades.
#2 Richard Roxburgh in Van Helsing
This film had so much going for it. After all, Hugh Jackman was near the peak of his popularity, and I think placing the focus on the hunter instead of Dracula gave it a good shot at turning out well. The biggest blame for what went wrong here goes straight to the director, Stephen Sommers. He’d already gone overboard in using CGI for The Mummy Returns, and instead of learning from that mistake, he just doubled down for Van Helsing. Dracula and his brides also took on a batlike form that relied entirely on the computer animation, and it looks terrible.
In this case, I do have to fault the actor a bit, though. While a lot of my previous picks focused more on the mistakes made by writers, I really feel like Richard Roxburgh went way too hammy in his performance. One could argue, though, he was just correctly reading how campy this film would ultimately turn out. Jackman’s presence as the hero dominated the film, as it should, but that really required an equally intimidating and powerful presence in the role of Dracula.
The production didn’t do Roxburgh any favors, though. Once again, we’re handed a Dracula with an absurd looking hair style. I just don’t get why Hollywood is so determined to give Dracula bad hair. The film also tries to play up Dracula’s sex appeal by surrounding him with three beautiful women as his vampire brides, but placing them next to Roxburgh just emphasized how much his costume for the film made him look goofy.
This particular version of Dracula irritated me so much, because the film was so close to delivering something great. Jackman turns in a solid performance as Van Helsing, and it’s a shame to see it wasted in a sub-par film, and in a way, it only emphasizes all the campier performances around him. I’ve also long believed the script needed at least one more draft to work out some of the issues.
I’m going to save my #1 worst Dracula pick for Halloween, because Sunday, I’m going to include a “dishonorable mention” in my countdown list. I’ll explain why it didn’t make it onto the list even though it probably should.