The abject failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy and the entire Dark Universe was far from the first time Universal had tried and failed to launch a star-studded multi-film series based on the studio’s roster of classic monsters. In fact, they’ve faltered on numerous occasions over the last two decades thanks to duds like Van Helsing, The Wolfman and Dracula Untold.
The former stood a good chance of being a success on paper at least, with the high concept historical fantasy actioner hailing from Stephen Sommers, who had already reinvented the Universal Monsters once before with solid results in The Mummy. Then there was the presence of charismatic A-list star Hugh Jackman in the lead, while the premise boasted limitless potential as Vatican-sponsored monster hunter Gabriel Van Helsing made his way around Europe tasked with taking down some true icons of the horror genre.
Unfortunately, though, Sommers couldn’t hold his wad and decided to cram the movie with as much content as possible, with Van Helsing containing enough supporting characters, subplots and action sequences to last an entire franchise. It was certainly ambitious, but by the time audiences were forced to sit through their umpteenth dimly-lit battle pitting pixel against pixel, it had all become too much.
The $160 million blockbuster wasn’t exactly a bomb, but it didn’t pull in great numbers, either, topping out at just over $300 million globally. However, over the last seventeen years, it’s gone on to become something of a kitsch cult favorite among audiences, and Van Helsing is now defying expectations once again by steadily rising up the Netflix Top 20 most-watched list, as fans rush to devour some unabashedly cheesy and undemanding action-orientated content.