Van Helsing: Coming Back – Inside Information (Review)

Van Helsing - Season 1

Van Helsing “Coming Back” gives a bit of backstory through visuals; Vanessa’s apartment has police tape over the front door showing that civilization had not crumbled until after she died. It also proves Axel’s point, Van Helsing was not ready to go outside.

Inside the hospital, one of the survivors has been murdered. Set up to look like a suicide by hanging, the body is missing a finger and she was strangled to death. Doc almost misses the evidence.

The survivors are still not comfortable with one another nor are they bonding very well.  John is still a douchebag and the dead girl only heightens the existing stress between members of the group.

Vanessa lights a fire as a diversion in the restroom so she can escape and find her daughter. Mohamad  comes along as he knows the door code and he has a sister; Sheema,  to find.

More is learned about the vampires in this episode. Mohamad reveals to Van Helsing that the brand on his neck is a sign that he was the property of a feeder.

There is discontent amounts the hierarchy in the vampire ranks.  Dimitri may be the leader now, but it appears that a disgruntled Julius was there first.

At the start of the episode a young black girl, Sheema, watches through a grate as a female vampire has sex with a young man and then kills him. The vampire senses the girl’s presence but Sheema leaves before getting caught.

There is a human resistance movement trying to gain traction.  (This bit was a tad “overblown” as the man who pushes for the group to take action  makes it sound like the vampires have been in charge for decades instead of a few years.)

Sheema talks to the man and assures him all is not lost.

Back at the hospital fingers of suspicion point to Flesh and Doc as the possible murders of the dead girl.  John also, rather unwisely, accuses Sam’s friend Mohammed. Sam takes offense at this and John’s nasty attitude about his deafness and grabs him by the throat.

Oddly, John refuses to look at Sam during the subdued attack.

Outside the hospital, Van Helsing and Mohamad stop at the apartment. As Vanessa retrieves a shotgun, she notices bloody footprints leading outside the apartment.  Clearly her daughter Dylan was alive after Vanessa died.

After a meal of canned peaches and some sharing of information the two head outside. They come across a small band of survivors, out-of-towners, who are being attacked by feeders.

Vanessa steps in, against Mohamad’s wishes, and saves the group. There is one injured person among the members of the group and a small girl.  Van Helsing tells Mohamad to take the survivors back to the hospital and that she will hold off the feeders who are organizing around them.

Reluctantly Mohamad leads the survivors away and Vanessa waits to fight the approaching vampires.

Van Helsing takes out quite a few feeders before being overpowered and taken prisoner. The vampires know not to feed on her and as she is taken away, “In the Year 2525”  begins playing.  Vanessa is shown wearing a bite guard as the feeders take her away.

This is an impressive scene that brings up a very interesting question. Unless the writers have made a complete boo-boo, aka written a huge and somewhat gaping plot hole, the feeders have inside information about Van Helsing.

The only vampire/feeder bitten by Vanessa was Doc. Inside the hospital.  In front of the survivors and no one else.  How do the feeders know to keep Van Helsing from biting?

They cannot, obviously, know that Vanessa can cure their vampirism by means of biting unless someone in the group is a plant.  Added to this line of speculation is the missing finger and the murder staged to looked like a suicide. All this means that someone in the group is an outsider.

Doc thinks the finger is a souvenir but perhaps it is a small snack for the feeder in survivor’s clothing.  The two best suspects are Mohamad (who gave up the search for his sister pretty easily and who is, self admittedly, some feeder’s property) and his accuser John.

Of course it may not be John, just being a colossal douche and an a**hole does not instantly mean he is the mole of the group.

With Vanessa now a captive of the feeders, Axel will eventually go after his “assignment” although he has stuck with the group for now. On a sidenote, the dynamic between the Marine and the doctor is a bit strained after her rescue. A bit disappointing but not too surprising, Doc does has a slightly skewed view of things.

Van Helsing airs Fridays on SyFy.  Tune in and see how the savior of humanity will be saved herself.


Van Helsing: Help Me/Seen You – Two Hour Makeover of the Myth (Review)

Van Helsing - Season 1

Forget Bram Stoker. It might be a good idea to give Anne Rice a miss as well. Van Helsing takes what it wants from the vampire myth and leaves the rest.  The two episode open “Help Me” and “Seen You” establishes the characters in the most fundamental way possible.

The plot, in a nutshell, has vampires running amok after a super volcano erupts and shades the earth with a cloud of volcanic ash. This massive explosion of lava and rock unleashes the vampire horde that has been hiding until now.

At the same time, a young coma patient; Van Helsing, is under guard by a Marine detachment. She is special, they are told,  as she should be dead.  The volcano erupts and after the vampires have decimated the human population Vanessa Van Helsing wakes up.

Van Helsing has, it seems, three distinct types of vampire.  Feral’s which are pretty much as the name implies; wild, savage and not too intelligent. The other two are feeders, who can track their prey down, and the last smaller group consists of vampire leaders who run the whole shooting match. Dimitri is the big boss.

These creatures of the night (yes they are still allergic to sunlight, hence the need for the volcanic ash cloud) have no apparent fangs. They also cannot fly, do not control other creatures of the night, are not afraid of crosses,  nor are they allergic to garlic,  and they do not need to be staked through the heart to be killed.

Vampires in this world need only suffer massive blood loss or a lot of blunt force trauma to be extinguished. (They also do not disappear in a flash of smoke or disintegrate into a pile of ash a’la Buffy The Vampire Slayer.)

Bloodsuckers in this verse can be killed with something as simple as a baseball bat, or a section of steel pipe.

They have more in common with the 30 Days of Night vampires although these blood drinkers do not have a special language. (Dimitri does, however, speak Romanian.) In essence these monsters have more in common with zombies than actual vampires.

If Count Dracula were to have a family reunion it is a sure bet that none of this lot would be invited.  The Walking Dead, however, would make room at their table.

Van Helsing feels like an offshoot of Daybreakers where the vampires look very much like normal people. The main difference being that normal folks do not drink each other’s blood.

Another thing this show shares with Daybreakers is the ability of vampires to be changed  back to the human they once were.  In traditional vampire lore, the only escape is death. There is no “turning back.”

Van Helsing - Season 1
Axle Miller

At the start of the first episode, Axel is alone except for the unconscious Vanessa and a vampire he feeds via a transfusion tube.  She sucks his blood through the tube and he talks to her during the process. This captured vampire turns out to be Doc;  the woman who looked after Van Helsing initially.

A group of survivors, one of whom Axel knows, gain entry. One man’s wife is still out there and it causes some friction. As a matter of fact, all  of this new group, barring Sam and Mohamad, are a royal pain. The women are aggressive and not grateful at all for being saved.

The man whose wife was left behind attacks Axel and Ted (played by Tim Guinee) – a friend and former colleague of Miller’s – turns out to be a vampire sympathizer. He tries to take Vanessa, dead or alive, to the monsters that surround the hospital.

Van Helsing kills the Ted, by ramming the knife shoved through her hand into his eye socket. Impressive as this is, her incredibly fast healing powers actually trump the kill.

Vanessa, despite her claims to the contrary, is very special. Her blood turns vampires back into people. This “borrow” from “Daybreakers” relegates the whole demon aspect of vampires into a sort of viral infection that can be cured with the right antibody.

The second half of the season one premiere is all about backstory. Vanessa’s and  the world’s devolution into vampire territory are shown.  In “help Me” Van Helsing is desperate to get to her daughter. Miller tells her that the girl is most likely dead. This half of the premiere shows the little girl with her mother.

It also shows that the vampires were already present in this world.

Vanessa is a single mother whose ex fails in the father sweepstakes. Van Helsing turns out to be a tough woman who is not afraid to stick up for those less capable.  She is also devoted to her daughter Dylan (Hannah Cheramy).

Everything falls apart on Dylan’s birthday when Vanessa is attacked by a vampire. The two fight and Van Helsing gives as good as she gets in the scuffle.  The vampire rips open her throat as Dylan watches.  The creature is affected by her blood and rushes out of the apartment.

Van Helsing “dies.”

This introduces her “dead body”  to Doc who discovers that she may look dead but  her blood is still active.   Miller and his fellow Marines are dispatched to the hospital to grab Vanessa. As the doctor argues with the detachment commander all hell breaks loose outside the hospital.

Vampires attack the hospital and the Major orders Ted and Axle to keep an eye on “Sleeping beauty” and the Doc.  Three years later, the vampires are, it seems, trying to procreate and they are searching for Vanessa  at the same time.

Van Helsing - Season 1

A squad of Marines head out to get supplies from the base and Doc is turned by the means of a bite as she saves Axel. Her turning is painful and disturbing. She pleads with Axel not to kill her.

He decides to strap Doc to a hospital gurney instead. Within seconds she transforms into a vampire struggling to get out of its bonds and kill him.

Van Helsing takes two hours to make over the myth of the vampire and it does so admirably.  The major characters are interesting, especially Sam who must be the luckiest deaf man alive to have avoided being killed.

There are some concerns about the deviation from traditional vampire lore but, in the end,  they are still frightening and a pretty impressive foe to be conquered.

Overly as Van Helsing is a change from previous heroines in the horror genre. It is interesting to see that,  thus far, her ability to change vampires back to human consists of being bitten. Hopefully a less painful, and intrusive, way will be found.

Van Helsing airs Fridays on SyFy. Tune in and see what you think.


Van Helsing: Season One Premiere (Preview)

Van Helsing - Season 1

SyFy and Nomadic Pictures have teamed up to bring a new heroine to the small screen. Van Helsing is about a post apocalyptic world in the very near future. With two cast members from Hell on Wheels (along with its showrunner and a plot that is evocative of 30 Days of Night and Daybreakers, the new series could be seen as a retread of sorts.

It is not.

There are, however,  glimpses of either homages or slight nods and winks to films in the “apocalyptic” genre. (Yes we know that is not a proper genre category but by this time,  with so many of these films out there, it should be.) At its core however, Van Helsing is about vampires, many different kinds, and about dwindling numbers of human survivors.

In many ways it can be seen as a sort of mix of the vamps in “Night” and those weird aberrations  taking over New  York in The Strain.  This new survival horror (or fantasy as IMDb classes it) can be seen as a “coat of many colours.”

A mixture of tropes and themes that work well in the premiere. In the first three episodes, there are a number of characters in the verse. There are, however, only a few at the center of everything.

Van Helsing, played by Kelly Overton  (Legends, True Bloodis of course the pivotal character. She is protected by the extremely focussed Marine Sergeant Axel Miller, played by Jonathan Scarfe (Hell on Wheels, Ties that Bind).

Doc is played by Rukiya Bernard and another Hell on Wheels alumnus Christopher Heyerdahl plays Sam, a deaf/mute. He is joined by Mohamad (Trezzo Mahoro).

On the vampire side is leader Dimitri (Paul Johansson) who commands an enormous amount of vampires. 

Van Helsing is introduced in a time, literally three years from now, where everything is pretty dire.  Miller is holding on to his original mission while all around him the world has gone to hell in a hand basket.

Vanessa Van Helsing has a secret, or two, and the vampires are desperate to get hold of her, dead or alive.  She is a strong female character who is determined to find her missing daughter.

This tale is a bit science fiction with a little horror mixed in. There is also enough action and drama to keep things interesting for those who are not fans of the “undead.”

Overton is very convincing as the slightly confused and reluctant savior of mankind. Scarfe comes over very well as the good guy this time around, after his all too horrid Sydney Snow in Hell on Wheels.

Scarf’s fellow “Wheels” colleague,  Heyerdahl has been given a character  that relies upon sign language to communicate. It is a nice touch and allows the actor to rest his soothing tones.

Bernard gives Doc a bit of humor and pathos all mixed in together.

Showrunner Neil LeBute  (Hell on Wheels, Bill & Billie) has delivered a series that focusses less on the hugger mugger trappings of traditional vampire mythology and zeroed in on the “reality” of the situation.

Van Helsing airs 23 September on Syfy. Tune in and catch this two hour premiere and see what you think of the newest heroine in town.

Legends and Sean Bean Are Back on TNT

Legends and Sean Bean are back on TNT. The second season begins on November 2 on the network. However, there have been some changes with the show that viewers became addicted to in 2014. The cast roster has been completely turned on its head with a lot of familiar faces now gone. In fact the only other character, and the actor playing him, from season one to return is Tony Rice (played by Morris Chestnut).

10 episodes will continue the story of Bean’s covert operator who learned in season one that his entire life was just another legend. While “Martin Odum” will continue his search for identity, his compadres have changed. Gone are Ali Larter, Tina Majorino and new actors, Ralph Brown (Agent Carter), Ave Zoli (Sons of Anarchy), Steve Kazee (Shameless), Aisling Franciosi (The Fall), Kelly Overton (True Blood) and Klara Issova (Crossing Lines) have joined the operative’s journey of discovery.

Where the first outing of Legends was land-locked in the US, with a few flashback sequences set outside the borders, the new season has been filmed across Europe. Season two opens with Odum (Bean) avoiding authorities for the murder pinned on him at the last of season one. The tortured man and agent will travel across the European continent and England searching for clues to his true identity and will discover some pretty horrific facts that he may wish he had never learned.

While Crystal McGuire has left Martin’s support network, new contact Nina Brenner (played by Kelly Overton) from the CIA and Tony Rice (Chestnut) help Odum in his global quest for the truth. These two lead him to a possible link to his past, Ilyana Crawford and her troubled daughter Kate (Klara Issova and Aisling Franciosi)

Martin learns that he has connections with a retired spook, Terrance Graves (Brown). All he learns begins to clash with his present life and the lie (legend) he has been living. Odum also finds out that he has more than one crime that someone wants to pin on him. Back in 2001 the FBI wanted to arrest him for a different offense entirely.

The older case was run by Agent Curtis Ballard (played by Steve Kazee) and the agents accomplice a Czech police officer Gabrielle Miskova (Winter Ave Zoli). Martin must learn the truth in oder to clear his name and attempt to keep his troubled past from catching up with him.

Legends is adapted from Robert Littell’s award-winning book and is produced by Fox 21. The showrunner is Star Trek: Voyager and Perception executive producer Ken Biller. Other executive producers for the second season are Howard Gordon (Homeland, 24), Homeland and Lie to Me executive producer Alexander Cary and Jonathan Levin (Charmed).