Spoilers for The Mummy.
Have we already met Dark Universe’s Van Helsing? The Mummy introduced audiences to Universal’s Monster Universe, AKA “Dark Universe” by seeing Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton become an immortal God of Death, revealing an already divided Jekyll and Hyde, and establishing the shady Prodigium. But alongside that, did it also serve as a secret origin story for the series’ version of the famed vampire hunter?
While plans for the Dark Universe have been expanding rapidly, with Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem confirmed as the Invisible Man and Frankenstein’s monster respectively and producers already looking towards the second wave, including Phantom and Hunchback, the Dracula side of the franchise has been rather quiet. Of course, Dracula Untold was originally set to kick the series off, with a Van Helsing movie said to be in the pipeline, but a tepid reaction led to Luke Evans’ film being rendered non-canon and seemingly any Vampire-hinged action with it. There was a fanged skull easter egg in Prodigium, but it presently feels like we’re a long way off that being acted upon.
However, despite that, there was still much speculation that Van Helsing would appear in The Mummy, with the popular pre-release theory that Cruise’s Morton was going to be revealed as Dracula’s nemesis. Obviously that turned out to be false – Nick’s actually the series’ de facto Mummy – but there’s another potential candidate.
Who Is Van Helsing?
Before going too deep, it’s probably worth establishing who Van Helsing is, especially as he’s best known from the dire Hugh Jackman vehicle from 2004.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing is the protagonist of Bram Stoker’s original Dracula novel, an expert in diseases who identifies Vlad’s vampirization after an estate agent is bitten, taking the fight to the monster and eventually killing him. Due to the popularity of his associated creature, he’s appeared in a litany of movies over the years and had his position as a vampire hunter – as opposed to doctor drawn into the gothic world – played up, becoming an iconic figure in his own right. The most notable performances come from Edward Van Sloan in Universal’s 1931 Dracula against Bela Lugosi, Peter Cushing in several Hammer films opposite Christopher Lee, and Anthony Hopkins in Bram Stoker’s Dracula taking down Gary Oldman.
It’s impossible to make a Dracula movie that even glances with Stoker’s source without including Van Helsing, and so it’s only inevitable the Dark Universe will eventually bring him into the fold. This is especially true given that, as it currently stands, there’s little in the way of human characters – the only classic name we can presume is Victor Frankenstein in Bride of Frankenstein.
There’ll be plenty of opportunities for him to be introduced if the half-dozen planned films do get made, but because of that expanded scope, Van Helsing can definitely exist without Dracula to begin with. In fact, we think we may have already been introduced to him without realizing. Or should that be “her”?