Review: Van Helsing (Syfy) – It could have been something, but ended up as nothing
By Robin Oatley on August 2, 2016
The year is 2019. It’s three years after ‘The Rising’, civilization has fallen and vampires rule the streets. But no worries, there is a savior: Vanessa Helsing (Kelly Overton, True Blood). She is introduced by what I believe is supposed to be a cool fighting scene. Unfortunately, that attempt failed miserably and we’re left with a poorly executed idea and the feeling of dread for what the next forty-something minutes will bring.
Let’s jump back thirty-six hours and show a man – a marine called Axel (Jonathan Scarfe, ER) – feeding a vampire in a way that very much resembles a mother with her child. “Hmm, yeah that’s ok. Go ahead, yeah, that’s it, drink up.” Excuse me? I’ll just brush past that since Axel actually seems like a very capable soldier guarding the highly secured facility in which Vanessa lies unconscious. Which immediately makes me wonder: how did Vanessa get surrounded by vampires in the opening scene if Axel is such a capable protector? Where did he – and the people that join him later on – go? Definitely some suspense building there.
The show tries to make the characters relatable by going into their past through random confessions and the odd sign of weakness when faced with a difficult decision, but it’s not very effective. So far, Vanessa is the only one to invoke feelings of empathy with her being unable to remember anything about who she is. All she knows is she woke up in a room surrounded by vampires, she had some innate ability to fight them off and not get turned into a vampire even though she was bit, and she has a daughter and a husband and they’re not with her. Which also happens to be the only thing anyone else knows about her.
Over the course of the series, Vanessa will find out more about herself and her ability to fight off the vampires. And her ability to regenerate after sustaining an injury. And to make a turn back to being a normal human. Yep, there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. It’s a shame Axel is taking his mission of keeping her safe inside a little too seriously because it is apparent she’s supposed to be out there on the streets kicking ass.
I’ll give it to them: Syfy has done its best to make the vampires a lot more gross and creepy, which is definitely a necessity after the vampire scene changed to the tolerant glitter-version we now know (and hate?). Plus, they made that ‘clever’ wordplay with and Vanessa Helsing. Hey, at least they tried to be funny, they deserve some points for trying.
From what I gathered, these vampires aren’t your ordinary Hollywood vampires. These vampires age and they spread the virus like zombies do. In fact, they’re like zombies in many ways and I can recognize the desire to appeal to a -type of audience. There’s a lot of blood, gore and violence as well, so definitely not a show for the faint-hearted.
I am not one of those faint-hearted individuals, but still the series doesn’t manage to appeal to me at all. The dialogue is really forced, and most of the time it feels like they’re choosing random characters to set up situations just to give Vanessa a chance to show off her ‘badassness’. It’s a shame, because the series could have been quite nice. I admit I’m not necessarily a fan of the building-on-a-popular-name series, especially if it’s as loosely related to the original story as this series is, but this series could have been quite something regardless. Maybe it will manage to grow during the first season, maybe it won’t. Only time will tell.
Van Helsing premieres on Friday, September 23rd at 10/9c.