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Section Header
Van Helsing
(2004)
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
Alan Silvestri

Co-Produced by:
David Bifano

Orchestrated by:
Mark McKenzie
William Ross
David Slonaker

Label:
Decca Records

Release Date:
May 4th, 2004

Also See:
The Mummy Returns
Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life
Underworld

Audio Clips:
2. Burn It Down! (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

8. Transylvanian Horses (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (249K)
Real Audio (155K)

11. Final Battle (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

12. Reunited (0:31):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

Availability:
Regular U.S. release.

Awards:
  None.









Van Helsing

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Buy it... if you seek to hear Alan Silvestri's continuing journey into the realm of monumentally immense and exciting action writing for full orchestra and choir.

Avoid it... if you try to avoid scores that knock you over the head with their forceful demeanor, blunt action rhythms, constant pounding, and obvious themes.



Silvestri
Van Helsing: (Alan Silvestri) Launching the 2004 summer movie season with some serious biting power, Van Helsing slashed into theatres as yet another post-2000 entry in the genre of comic-style vampire, werewolf, and monster battles. Director Stephen Sommers left behind the desert of his The Mummy films and headed to the stark, black versus black world of Transylvania, where Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) and his appropriately butt-kicking female sidekick (Kate Beckinsale once again, an actress who was trying really hard to shed that "nice girl with soft accent" image) set out to destroy Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), his hoards of seductive vampire brides, and, not to miss the opportunity for some additional cross-referenced fun, the infamous Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster. Our heroes must vanquish the evil forces to strike a curse on Beckinsale's character, Anna Valerious, and rid the poor folk of Eastern Europe of a nasty reputation for housing such unseemly neighbors. The film's gorgeous special effects of dark blue and gray hues led to Van Helsing's destiny as a perpetual regular on cable television. Composer Alan Silvestri had produced arguably the best of the franchise for Sommers' The Mummy Returns and had since provided an action score for Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life that was substantially better than the film it accompanied. Silvestri, who sometimes gets stuck in the mud when tackling smaller scale suspense and horror genre scores, seems to hold his best inspiration for the days when he can compose for and record immense orchestral and choral action. Both The Mummy Returns and Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life took the composer to a much more complex level of orchestral mayhem than heard in the days of his popular early scores for Back to the Future and The Abyss. With each passing large-scale project, Silvestri made more and more ruckus, stirring up the summer seasons of the early 2000's by contributing his own wild action scores that could very well raise a person from his or her grave. For Van Helsing, this trend continued, even to a greater scale, allowing the force of a full orchestra and adult choir to set a high standard for summer action once again.

To leave the Van Helsing score by simply stating that it is exceedingly noisy would be unfair to the merits of the score, but it is indeed very, very noisy. In fact, don't expect anything longer than a minute-long break from the full-scale bombast of this action score. With a constantly immense sound and resounding bass, Van Helsing is so huge and relentless in its dark swells and driving rhythms that you have to be prepared and in a proper mood to enjoy its album. Seemingly without much electronic accompaniment, Silvestri overwhelms you the old fashion way, with highly structured orchestral rhythms propelling every cue on the backs of the percussion section. It is a very thematic work, although a casual listener might miss these themes because there is so much frenetic orchestral action occurring all at once, not to mention a problem with the memorability of the title theme. Silvestri does break a fundamental rule of film music, however, writing themes for the villains and secondary characters that vastly outshine the melodic identity of the hero. In this case, the pounding percussive representation for Dracula and his vampires, complete with chanting choir and whispering bat-like effects, dominates immediately in "Transylvania" and throughout the score's action sequences. Dracula himself receives a devious climbing and falling identity late in "Burn It Down!" that explodes in full by "Dracula's Nursery." The Frankenstein Monster actually receives the score's most compelling theme, a bittersweet and heroic idea with harp flourishes in the beautifully shot windmill sequence of "Burn It Down!" and when he swings from the wires of Dracula's castle late in "Final Battle" (along with a brief statement in "Who Are They to Judge?"). Anna's character has an equally lamenting thematic identity, gorgeously unleashed with female voices during the heavenly sequence in "Reunited." That leaves Van Helsing himself with the weakest theme and underlying rhythmic motif. The rambling acoustic guitar rhythm for the character (heard first in an unreleased cue as he rides through Paris after the windmill scene) sounds remarkably strange in context and almost ruins the last moments of the film, during which the theme receives its most robust statement. There is some debate about whether the brass and choral theme in "Reunited" is a love theme or part of Van Helsing's own identity, though it's likely the former.

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All of these themes are quite predictable, with simple chord progressions raising memories of both Danny Elfman and Elliot Goldenthal's themes for the Batman franchise, and the Dracula theme in particular has an almost-playful personality which, along with timpani and brass use, will intrigue fans of Goldenthal's Batman Forever score. The scope of Van Helsing is also of note; David Arnold collectors will also likely enjoy the broad strokes of brass similar to those of Independence Day in "Who Are They to Judge?" Silvestri inserts a plethora of instrumental texture throughout Van Helsing worth mentioning as well. The staggering waltz for violin in "All Hallow's Eve Ball" and a choir that performs pulsating crescendos in the style of Don Davis' latter two The Matrix scores are both memorable. A theme of nearly swashbuckling spirit debuts in "Useless Crucifix" and continues through the end of "Final Battle," and this seemingly positive motif in an otherwise dark score seems out of place. The "Reunited" cue is by far the most enjoyable presentation of any idea on album, despite the awkward guitar, chime, and synthesizer theme for Van Helsing at its very end. Silvestri's use of a solo female voice to represent Valerious' curse and a solo flute to shine a ray of light onto a previously hopeless situation are nothing less than lovely. The determined thematic expression here elegantly maintains the power of the score's rhythms with snare highlights under each measure. A touch of Jerry Goldsmith's layering of horns over the top of the theme is also to be heard. The combination of themes for Dracula, his vampires, and the Frankenstein Monster over the black and white windmill sequence at the start is old-fashioned movie music magic at its best. Ultimately, Silvestri's Van Helsing follows almost every guideline in the handbook for action score success, and with a strong execution of that writing by the ensemble, the score is highly recommended. Its only weakness remains the fact that hero's theme is by far less entertaining than those for the other major characters, and, for some, the nonstop pace of action will strike with blunt intentions. The album presentation would have been better balanced if a greater quantity of softer underscore was included on the 43-minute product. Overall, though, despite a lack of variance between high and low, Van Helsing is one monumentally bold and wickedly exciting work. ****   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Alan Silvestri reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.34 (in 32 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.23 (in 31,301 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





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Regular Average: 3.82 Stars
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 42:53


• 1. Transylvania 1887 (1:26)
• 2. Burn It Down! (4:46)
• 3. Werewolf Trap (1:53)
• 4. Journey to Transylvania (1:33)
• 5. Attacking Brides (5:02)
• 6. Dracula's Nursery (5:46)
• 7. Useless Crucifix (2:35)
• 8. Transylvanian Horses (3:55)
• 9. All Hallow's Eve Ball (3:01)
• 10. Who Are They to Judge? (2:00)
• 11. Final Battle (6:28)
• 12. Reunited (4:23)




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert includes advertisements and a fold-out poster, but no extra information about the score or film.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Van Helsing are Copyright © 2004, Decca Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 4/23/04 and last updated 4/7/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2004-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.