Van Helsing

I watched the first episode of Van Helsing a year or so ago. I’m not a big fan of survival horror TV shows, so after that first episode it sat on my ‘to watch’ list. After Dracula, I decided to start watching again, if only to get the taste of bad vampire show out of my mouth.

The plot

When a large volcano in West America erupts, clouds cover the sky. An environmental disaster for most. However, for some it isn’t a disaster, it’s an opportunity: vampires can suddenly walk outside during the day.

Fast forward three years. Vampires have taken over, infected many humans, and keeping most of the rest as cattle. Pockets of free humans remain, trying to stay ahead of the vampires and survive.

In a hospital in Seattle, a mysterious woman has been in a coma for three years, lying on a hospital table. The thing is: she was brought in as a dead body. A lone soldier stands watch over her. Van Helsing begins when a group of vampires invades the hospital and one bites the woman, only to die from it. It causes the woman — Vanessa — to wake up…

Characters

Vanessa used to be a single mom, and now she wakes up, three years after dying, finding out she has superpowers. The world she came from is dead, and the only thing keeping her going is finding her daughter Dylan. It is an interesting person to choose as a protagonist. She’s not a millionaire with a suit, or a do-gooder with a nice family. No, she’s had it rough, and lived in a crappy apartment with her daughter, barely scraping by.

Axel is the lone soldier who stood guard over her, his unit tasked with guarding Vanessa’s body for pickup. However, that never happened. For him, duty is all. He has a very strict code of honor, and he sticks to it to a fault.

Doc is the doctor who reported Vanessa’s body, and got stuck with Axel’s unit in the hospital when the vampires came. Then she was turned into a vampire herself. Axel locked her in a cage, and has been feeding her blood since.

The trio is soon joined by other characters. Van Helsing is a survival horror show, meaning it features a cast of characters who tend to get killed. Like in The Walking Dead or Resident Evil. But I won’t list all of those here. Suffice it to say, they’re a varied bunch.

Then there’s the bad guys. When the sun got blocked out, many were turned to vampires, but some of them had been around before. Those older vampires quickly came out at the top of the new order. Dimitri is their leader, a mysterious ancient vampire, accompanied by a female vampire in black leather with red hair called Rebecca.

Survival horror

I’m not usually a big fan of horror. I dislike it when I route for characters and they die. That’s one of the things that scares me off survival horror shows like this: characters don’t have a long shelf-life, usually.

Survival horror also tends to have only very nasty people in it. And if it’s only nasty characters, I can’t really get into it, like I had with Games of Thrones.

What sets Van Helsing apart is that the main characters are relatable. Vanessa and Axel are basically decent human beings.

Also, each time I think it’s a boring, something really awesome happens. That, and the characters do things that make sense — and that is actually refreshing, given how crappy many shows do. For example, the vampires don’t just kill all the humans, or turn them. No, they are smart enough to create farms to feed on them. When a character takes another hostage, they don’t pussy about, but just kill that person.

Then there’s the things with vampires you think about, but never happen in most shows. One of them drinking the blood of young babies as a treat. Using a corridor flooded with UV lights to stop them. What kind of experiments would they run on their humans? And so on.

Conclusion

Van Helsing isn’t a brilliant show. It’s fun, though. If you have a bad taste from watching Dracula, this might just clear that taste away.

It is pretty gruesome, though; so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands