Cult Movies: Van Helsing TV series a feast of 'basic, no-brainer small screen vampirism'

The vampire hunting adventures of Vanessa Van Helsing (Kelly Overton) ran for five years
Ralph McLean

Van Helsing: The Complete Collection

OVER its five year television run, Van Helsing offered up its fair share of cult-friendly thrills.

Between 2016 and 2021, the vampire hunting adventures of Vanessa Van Helsing (Kelly Overton) made for undemanding but undeniably fun excursions into televisual terror for a generation raised on the zombie gore of The Walking Dead.

Indeed, it's that game-changing series which clearly provided the blueprint for Van Helsing with bloodsuckers replacing undead zombies.

As this 20 (yes, 20) disc set from Dazzler Media reveals, that early Walking Dead template soon throws up some interesting diversions on very familiar horror themes. There's nothing here that you'd call wholly original by any means, but the show does play around with genre conventions and viewer expectations with impressive ease.

When Vanessa wakes from a coma to find that a volcanic explosion has shrouded the world in a blanket of ash and that the vampire hoards who had once lurked resolutely in the shadows were now happy to emerge into the daylight, the scene is swiftly set for a stake-driving scenario that's a little outside the norm.

Vanessa, for a start, seems to be imbued with a talent for turning bloodsuckers back into everyday members of the public simply by biting them which spins the traditional vampire mythology nicely on its head.

There's plenty of wild executions for the undead as well – this is an 18-certificate release after all – and those seeking a little excess gore with their Gothic storytelling will be well satisfied here.

As the series unfolds, the mythology widens to incorporate more supernatural themes and there's even some sci-fi friendly dimension-hopping to allow for tales of time travel and such like.

The latter means we get to enjoy backstories for Dracula – flipped fashionably here to Countess Olivia Von Dracula played by Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica – and the handy arrival of a similarly gifted sibling who's just as adept at dispatching pesky vampires as Vanessa.

Without giving away too many spoilers, there's a story arc that documents the taking down of a modern day bloodsucker who's become the President of the United States. It's all totally ridiculous of course, but it's fun all the same – and given the beyond satire activities of some all too recent residents of the White House, perhaps it's not as utterly outlandish as it first appears.

All-in-all, this massive box set might prove a little daunting for those unfamiliar with the TV series, but this is a frothy concoction that's part of a great tradition stretching back to the 1970s and legendary cult favourites like Salem's Lot.

While Van Helsing isn't really in the same league as such era-defining efforts, it's still a hugely enjoyable romp that plays hard and fast with some well-worn traditions. If it's basic, no-brainer small screen vampirism you're after, with all the nasty little thrills and spills that entails, you could do a lot worse than this well-stuffed collection.

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