‘Van Helsing’ Co-Writer Eric Heisserer Teases His Explicitly Non-Superhero Take on the Character
When news broke that screenwriter Eric Heisserer was joining Universal’s writers room to help craft a new interconnected universe of monster movies, he was not yet “Oscar-nominated Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer.” Of course, Heisserer’s background writing horror films like Lights Out and The Thing remake made him a swell fit for contributing to a new monster universe, but now there’s even more anticipation to see what Heisserer cooked up for Van Helsing after his well-deserved profile boost.
Heisserer co-wrote the script for Van Helsing with Passengers scribe Jon Spaihts, and while the film is still in development and doesn’t yet have a cast or director, it’s intended to join the upcoming The Mummy as well as other in-development films like The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein as part of a rebooted cinematic universe.
I recently got the chance to speak with Heisserer in anticipation of the February 14th Blu-ray release of the terrific Arrival, nominated for eight Oscars in total including Best Picture and Best Director, and during the course of our conversation Heisserer teased a bit about his take on Van Helsing. First, I was curious if Heisserer came in specifically to write Van Helsing or if the writers room assembled generally, and the scribe revealed it was a case of the latter:
“We all came in without putting a flag down on any of those certain monsters or films, just talking about how we saw the world working and what we wanted to explore. Sometimes we’d talk about themes, and Jon and I just found ourselves kind of on the same page in terms of what we wanted to see Van Helsing explore. It was a natural team-up, I think. It was just a conclusion that we all reached around the table that he and I would work on that together.”
While the writer was mum on specifics, he did tease that he and Spaihts’ take is a contemporary film, and that he was keen on eschewing the trend of superheroics in blockbusters:
“Well I guess the biggest thing that’s already been said is it’s contemporary, it’s a modern-day reimagining… I can talk about my emotional state of what I’ve been passionate about or sometimes frustrated by are the number of films where we find an extraordinary character with superhuman abilities that becomes a hero to solve a problem that a normal person cannot solve. And I was eager to try and buck that trend and showcase someone who had no extraordinary powers, just resourcefulness and will and kind of a stubbornness who’s able to tackle some of these bigger problems. Because I don’t like the idea that we’re infusing our public and our pop culture with the idea that only super people can solve the world’s problems. I like the idea of the everyday hero stepping up to the plate and getting things fixed.”
Indeed, the blockbuster landscape is wall-to-wall characters with superhuman abilities, and even procedural network television shows are permeated with “special” protagonists who have some sort of power or keenness that sets them apart from your everyday citizen of the world. So it’s refreshing that this take on Van Helsing is unabashedly human.
When asked if the film could be described as horror, Heisserer admitted that he doesn’t know where the finished product will land, but did tease the kind of horror that he himself tried to infuse into the script:
“I don’t know what it’s going to look like at the end of the process, so I’m gonna withhold on commenting on really where it lands. I can say that my intent stepping in was to make it as scary as possible, partly because I know how to do that, and also because when you’re the only human surrounded by a bunch of supernatural creatures, that’s gotta be absolutely unnerving.”
It’s unclear which monster movie will be moving forward after this summer’s The Mummy, but Heisserer sure makes Van Helsing sound enticing.
Look for my full interview with the screenwriter on Collider soon. Arrival is currently available on Digital HD and hits Blu-ray on February 14th.