A low budget genre blend featuring Brandon Routh as a paranormal investigator, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night loosely adapts Tiziano Sclavi’s Italian comic books to the big screen. Trivia note: this is the first adaptation, though Sclavi was a screenwriter on Cemetery Man, which starred Rupert Everett (who Sclavi used as his model for the character Dylan Dog). How does Dylan do in his first American outing?
Director: Kevin Munroe
Writers: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer
When Elizabeth (Briem) finds her father murdered, she calls on Dyan Dog (Routh) to investigate. Though he used to be the mortal guardian of the supernatural creatures living in New Orleans, he’s since pursued more human sleuthing. But the case brings him back into the fold where there’s a war going on to get an ancient trinket which offers unlimited powers. On one side there’s the werewolves headed up by Gabriel (Stormare) and on the other side there’s vampire headed up by Vargas (Diggs), with both parties keeping things from Dylan and his sidekick Marcus (Huntington), who is attacked by a monster that turns him into a zombie.
- A New Genre Take: The idea of a world of vampires, werewolves and zombies living in New Orleans is good starting point, and having Dylan the man who knows all about that as a world weary private eye gives the film a little charge. It also gives the film a structure as it follows that blueprint (to the point that certain plot elements become obvious if you know the genre). But that it’s a murder mystery that chases the supernatural is a great concept. And some of the ideas (like a zombie support group) are good in theory if not practice. With so much supernatural cinema of late, and with the Twilight films, this feels like its own thing.
- Monster Suits: Most of the effects are practical, and there’s some big rubber suit monsters that are charming – albeit reminiscent of work done for “Buffy.”
- It Feels like a Movie: There’s a solid structure to the narrative, and it never feels like big screen television. It’s a minor thing, but still.
- A Game Cast: Diggs, Stormare, Huntington and Routh know what they’re doing with the material and they are likeable enough that the film is not painful to watch. And Routh and Huntington have chemistry together, even if Huntington’s character is played to be obnoxious.
- Miscasting: That said, Routh – still carrying the Superman baggage – does not come across as world-weary or whiskey-drenched. He looks like a late twenty-something former athlete, and that’s never developed as a character trait. Routh isn’t a bad actor, and between Superman and Scott Pilgrim, he’s shown range and a sense of humor, but the role only plays to his ability to be sarcastic – which he can do well – and commanding when in a fight. But when asked to play someone who’s lost a loved one and partly given up on the world, there’s no sense of that depth of pain.
- Cheapness: This was a low budget film, and there are lots of ways this works better than expected, but you can see certain sequences were done for so little money that it’s distracting.
- Minor Key: As a low budget effort, this feels very small. Which works to the film’s benefit in that the film manages a level of competence that early word suggested the film might not have (early buzz was terrible). With films of a certain low budget that don’t have big studio backing, most decisions – from casting to locations to visual splendor – come down to how much money you’ve got, and there are elements to this that can be called a labor of love, but if you can’t get over Routh – who is wrong for the part – as the lead there’s not much of the original comic book to savor, and there’s such a limited scope to the story that it mostly works if you take into account how it was made. For a general audience, that’s a much harder sell.
It’s hard to recommend a film that is – at best – relatively painless, but it’s also hard for me to beat up on a film that is this small. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is the sort of film that when viewed on cable late at night is probably better than expected, but you need to have low expectations to appreciate the end product. Because of the murder mystery aspects of the film, I was able to find things to like about it, but it’s also the sort of film where had the filmmakers had a little more money, it might be a solid three star fun ride. As it is, it’s not terrible.
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night opens April 29.