Television & Film

VAN HELSING Helps Us See the Merit In Another Vampire Show


VAN HELSING -- Pictured: "Van Helsing" Logo -- (Photo by: SyFy)
Episodes 101 & 102: “Help Me” and “Seen You”
Episode 101 Written by
Neil LaBute, Karen Lam, Jonathan Walker

Episode 102 Written by Simon Barry
Directed by Micheal Nankin

So the series/episode 1 “Help Me” starts with a text narration saying that civilization has fallen to a vampire invasion and the eruption of the Yellowstone Super Volcano in 2014, and it is now five years later. The narration states that a savior will come and liberate the world, and those who oppose her will do anything to stop her.


Our title character Vanessa (Kelly Overton) is in a coma in a hospital bed. She is then attacked by three vampires, with one (Vincent Gale) biting her. Strangely, the vampire then chokes on her blood before passing out. The other two attempt to attack her, but she suddenly wakes up and proceeds to kill the vampires.

The show then cuts to 36 hours earlier.

After the title explains the world’s situation we cut to an abandoned hospital. It’s guarded by Marine Axel Miller (Johnathon Scarfe), with a comatose Vanessa and doctor turned vampire (Rukiya Bernard). He’s approached by a group of survivors demanding that he let them in. He refuses, stating that he can’t risk the vampires getting in. Suddenly, Axel recognizes one of the members of the crew as Ted, another fellow Marine (Tim Guinee).

Jonathan Scarfe as Axel Miller
Jonathan Scarfe as Axel Miller

The survivors with him consist of a deaf man Sam (Christopher Heyerdahl), his friend Mohamad (Trezzo Mahoro), Nicole (Alison Wandzura), Karen (Jennifer Spence), John (David Cubitt), and Cynthia (Avery Konrad).

The 36 hours pass and then suddenly they’re attacked by vampires. Karen dies, and Vanessa is attacked. When she is recovered, she states that her name is Vanessa and she has a daughter, Dylan (Hannah Cheramy), She wishes to find her daughter, but the Marine tells her she can’t leave.

The second episode, “Seen You”, flashes back to before the vampire takeover happens.

The fabled Yellowstone super volcano is erupting, with Vanessa’s daughter taking note on the disaster that’s certain to come. Meanwhile, her mother Vanessa is donating blood for some quick money, which she lies to her daughter saying it’s a ‘job interview’. (Dylan seems too smart to buy her lie, but she doesn’t question it). Turns out it’s also Dylan’s birthday, and Vanessa says the extra cash she made is to take Dylan shopping for a birthday present. While they are talking, a vampire drinks Vanessa’s blood and goes back to his vampire bosses Dmitri (Paul Johansson), Rebecca (Laura Mennell), and Julius (Aleks Paunovic), saying that after drinking the blood he turned into a human. The bosses order one of their mooks to go find the donor of the blood and take her out.

Aleks Paunovic as Julius, Paul Johansson as Dmitri, Laura Mennel as Rebecca
Aleks Paunovic as Julius, Paul Johansson as Dmitri, Laura Mennel as Rebecca

That evening, Vanessa and Dylan are enjoying a birthday cake when Dylan’s father calls. He tells her because of the volcano eruption she can’t come see him. Dylan and Vanessa don’t believe him, claiming the real reason is because he doesn’t want her around while he’s spending time with a new girlfriend. Dylan cries and goes to hide in a closet. Vanessa goes to find her, when suddenly a strange man enters her apartment. He attacks her, and they fight. She manages to stab him before he bites her and takes out a huge chunk of her neck. Before succumbing to her injuries she tells Dylan to call the police.

Later, a doctor (the same doctor that is a captive vampire in the previous episode) is told to examine her body as the morgue is flooded with bodies. She proceeds to do so, noting that while Vanessa is dead, her body isn’t showing any signs of dying. No rigor mortis, no gas buildup, nothing. The doctor does some blood work and sends it to a colleague, noting the strangeness. The next day, six Marines arrive, demanding the doctor take them to Vanessa, telling her they have orders to transport the doctor and the woman.

Before they can leave the hospital, the super volcano underneath the erupted volcano in Yellowstone erupts, destroying thousands of miles of US soil and hurling ash towards the hospital. Also at the same time, the hospital is attacked by a vampire hoard. The Marines wall off the hospital where the doctor and Vanessa are and wait for further instructions. After the volcano eruption’s effects die down, some of the Marines decide they would be better off if they try to make it to the nearby base and find further instruction, but Axel decides that would be suicidal with all of the vampires, so he and the doctor wait behind. True to his fears, the Marines are overwhelmed with vampires, with the reveal of how the doctor became a vampire, with her being bitten while trying to keep vampires out of the hospital.

Rukiya Bernard as Doc, Kelly Overton as Vanessa Van Helsing
Rukiya Bernard as Doc, Kelly Overton as Vanessa Van Helsing

In the present day, Axel figures out that Ted let the vampires in the other day, and tells him he’ll have to leave. Ted attacks him as a result, and then reveals that “They” (Them presumably being the Head Vampires) will spare him if he delivers Vanessa to them. He then fights Vanessa, before she kills him. Her wounds regenerate, and then the vampire that bit her in episode one comes back, revealing to them that his biting her turned him back into a human.

Avery Konrad as Cynthia, Jennifer Spece as Karen, Alison Wandzura as Nicole, Christopher Heyerdahl as Sam, David Cubitt as John
Avery Konrad as Cynthia, Jennifer Spece as Karen, Alison Wandzura as Nicole, Christopher Heyerdahl as Sam, David Cubitt as John

This show opens VERY much like The Walking Dead did, with a comatose character missing all of the world ending events and needing to be filled in by the supporting characters once they wake up in an abandoned hospital with no muscle degeneration (although in Vanessa’s case you could argue has superpowers and is exempt). Also, they have children they need to get to, dang it! Only, with vampires this time, not zombies. There is the stark difference between the premises in that there is a vampire hierarchy, with the Vampire Diaries-esque beautiful, immortal, and more sapient leaders ordering the more vicious and animal-esque vampires. They carry the standard weakness of sunlight, while the show also adds the weakness of ‘enough bullets will kill them’.

With the reveal of Vanessa’s daughter being MIA and her blood curing vampirism, the standard conflict of ‘personal goal versus the greater good of the world’ seems to be in play (at least for the coming episodes). If done right, this show could blossom into a fascinating character study all around a fun and fresh romp into the well-trod vampire genre. If done wrong, it will be very droll and something we’ve all seen a million times before. I’m hoping for the former, if for nothing else that science fiction deserves a good “mother taking on the world” narrative.

All of the characters are fascinating and are open for more development. The only person that stands out as not very compelling is Marine Guy. He’s every standard Macho White Guy With Gun stereotype, making me go on auto pilot every time he was on screen. Also, with the ‘main character’ Vanessa being comatose for a majority of these episodes, if you hadn’t told me she was the main character, I would have assumed he was the main character, as he has the most screen time. Hopefully with Vanessa out of her coma, his screen time will diminish.

Overall, this show is worth checking out if you’re a fan (or at least not tired) of vampires and/or post-apocalyptic shows.


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