Should you make time tonight to start watching Van Helsing, Syfy’s latest take on vampires? No. In fact you should do literally anything else.
Van Helsing takes place in an apocalyptic near-future, where the title doesn’t refer to Abraham van Helsing, the nemesis of Dracula, but to Vanessa Helsing (Kelly Overton). Because, why let how names actually work get in the way of a good pun? The apocalypse is because the world is now overrun with vampires. Which, in this telling, are basically just zombies who long for blood rather than brains. And then others have minds but are really strong. And a third kind are the usual schemers who’ve been around awhile. There’s a lot going on, maybe you’d like to read the primer on Syfy’s website that explains the premise? You know, like all good shows need.
In the first episode, the main character barely does anything. Which is a good way to get used to how this show handles everything. Nothing is explained at all. And I think the mystery is meant to intrigue you, but the whole thing is so slow and so filled with things you’ve seen before, it’s impossible to muster up even the slightest bit of interest. The only character that isn’t Vanessa that you’ll remember the name of is Axel (Jonathan Scarfe). And that’s only because his name is Axel.
That name and the over-the-top amounts of blood and gore this show revels in might trick you into thinking that there’s some campy fun to be had. There is not. It’s all paint by numbers apocalyptic survival, down to the flashbacks showing how it all began—just with a few old school vampires floating around, listlessly making world domination plans.
I sat through the first three episodes and I wish I hadn’t. In real life, I’d have ditched this show halfway through the pilot and never looked back. The pace is miserable, the dialogue cliche-ridden, and the characters flat. You’d think, based on the title, that Vanessa and her magic anti-vampire powers would drive the show. They might eventually, but I am not going to be watching to find out.
After gritting my teeth and making it all the way to the end of episode three, the character I felt the most kinship to was someone who spent most of the time locked in a cage, screaming incoherently.
Van Helsing premieres tonight at 10pm (9pm CST) on Syfy, with episodes one and two both airing.