When I first saw Van Helsing‘s leaked pilot some months ago, I initially mistook it for another Syfy feminization — the intensely mediocre supernatural western Wynona Earp from earlier this year. Yes, the “Van” in Van Helsing stands for “Vanessa” … and honestly, with a bottom-of-the-barrel pitch like that, things can really only get better.
The show imagines a near-future dystopia where volcanic ash in the atmosphere has allowed vampires to roam freely and dominate the Earth, not unlike in DayBreakers (2009). In a Seattle hospital, a small group of soldiers have barricaded themselves in; their last mission before the world went to shit was to protect a Jane Doe who lay comatose there. When we join them in the opening moments of the pilot, they’re on their third year trapped inside that hospital.
Van Helsing makes up for its hokey title by being an immediately entertaining show. It’s easily better than The Walking Dead was in its first season, even if its budget is not exactly HBO-grade. Jonathan Scarfe as the indomitable marine still trying to complete his mission is tons of fun to watch. Kelly Overton as Vanessa Helsing is not the strongest lead actress ever, but the rest of the cast is great, and every major character is well-drawn.
The show was created by playwright/director Neil LaBute, and although it borrows some of its group dynamics from The Walking Dead (or really, any ensemble show set in a dystopic survivalist future), pitting puny humans against smart vampires as opposed to mindless zombies virtually guarantees an interesting set of conflicts.
Rating: 4 out of 5 empty blood bags