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Julius Avery and JJ Abrams on the Overlord set

Universal Pictures has been trying hard for years to make a franchise centered around legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing, but things haven't really worked out. Stephen Sommers' film from 2004 with Hugh Jackman wound up being a one-and-done enterprise, and the efforts within the last decade as part of the failed experiment that was the Dark Universe wound up turning to dust. The studio isn't giving up on the idea, however, and now the idea has been given new life with a director attached to helm the developing reboot.

Within the last year Universal Pictures has been working with James Wan to produce a new Van Helsing movie, and Deadline is reporting that Julius Avery has come aboard the project to direct. The filmmaker is best known for making the zombie-filled World War II movie Overlord in 2018, but his next feature – Samaritan starring Sylvester Stallone – is set to come out in the first half of next year.

Eric Pearson, whose credits include Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Black Widow, wrote the existing version of the Van Helsing script, though the trade report says that Avery will be doing his own rewrite.

With no plot details available, it's unclear at present to say how this new version of Van Helsing will be different from previous adaptations, but it will have to make a pretty big effort considering how many times we've seen the character on the big screen. The Hugh Jackman blockbuster was the first time that a film put the character front and center, but the role has been played by a number of legends, including Peter Cushing (1958's Dracula), Laurence Olivier (1979's Dracula), Anthony Hopkins (Bram Stoker's Dracula), and Christopher Plummer (Dracula 2000). It's also worth noting that Dracula's greatest foe has also had a pretty heavy small screen presence in recent years, particularly thanks to the Syfy series that launched in 2016.

In the wake of Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man earlier this year, the further development of Van Helsing is interesting. The expectation won't be for it to feature the titular hero facing off against monsters established in other movies (which would have been the plan had the Dark Universe actually become a thing after Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy), but instead we may get a more self-contained story that is more focused on specifically accentuating what's great about the character than building out a larger world or even aiming to start a whole series. Time will tell, but the concept of Universal Monster movies coming from more of a filmmaker-driven approach is definitely exciting.

Given that Samaritan was originally supposed to be released in 2020, it's very possible that work on the film has already been completed, which could mean that Van Helsing could have Julius Avery's immediate attention. There isn't any info in the report regarding when the project is aiming to start seriously moving its gears, but we'll keep you up to date here on CinemaBlend with all of the biggest updates as they come to light.

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