Release Date: 05.04.04
Record label: Decca / Universal
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
An Orchestral Powerhouse
by: bill aicher
As a film, Van Helsing hasn't received quite the response studio execs (and director Stephen Sommers) would have preferred. Likely, this was due to audience expectations being beyond what a film based on a mythical man who hunts vampires and werewolves (and other monsters) for a living can truly deliver. The film's composer, Alan Silvestri, did seem to understand what Van Helsing is: a fun-filled action romp based on some of the most legendary, albeit somewhat campy, monsters of all time.
From the opening of "Transylvania 1887" (with a flashback in a film to classic black and white monster-noir), it's obvious that Silvestri has completely understood Sommer's mission with Van Helsing - and as the film's soundtrack progresses it's also obvious that this is one of Silvestri's finest compositional feats thus far. Incorporating a heavy dose of brass and nearly overwhelming orchestration, Van Helsing's score works as a musical powerhouse with nary a second to breathe. Full adult choirs bring about the gothic feel necessary for a film of this ire, and the percussive horn work brings Van Helsing's character to a near super-hero status.
In fact, given Silvestri's score here, Van Helsing works as a comic book film of sorts (which is what the film presents itself as, as well). Themes like "Useless Crucifix" and the daring escape theme of "Transylvanian Horses" send the listener into the same frantic voyages Van Helsing experiences. It's only on "All Hallow's Eve Ball" that Silvestri takes a break, offering an absolutely beautiful, if eerily haunting, stringed waltz-ish number, only to build to a conclusion of reinvigorated action incorporating the Van Helsing theme established earlier in the film's score.
Still, individuals looking for theme-heavy compositions may be a bit put-off by "Van Helsing," as will those looking for quietier accompanying fare. Themes do exist, albeit in a much more understated manner than say "Back to the Future." Likewise, the score does have it's quieter moments, but these are used mostly to accentuate the action, most notably in "Who Are They to Judge" - which in turn leads up to the score's climax of "Final Battle."
Then again, those listeners who are merely looking for a powerful, extremely well-composed score, will likely be quite pleased with what Silvestri has to offer with Van Helsing. And, while it's quite likely that the film itself will be forgotten come Oscar time, it's also quite likely that Silvestri may receive a nod for this spectacular work. 17-May-2004 5:40 PM