Thursday, May 5, 2011

Theatrical Trip: DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2010)

I honestly had no intention of seeing DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT in the theater as the trailers did little to sell the flick to me.  And, after all, we are Video Junkie and not Theater Junkie.  That is probably another blog of some loser who spends all his time in the theater watching movies.  But when I read that it opened on 875 screens and came in #18 place at the box office this past weekend (grossing $754,779 with a sickly $863 per screen average), I knew I had to see it.  After all, you want to have the kind of unbelievable “I…was…there” horror stories to tell the Grand Video Junkies one day.  So I bravely made my way to 1:30pm showing – with an older lady being the only other person in the theater – as a recorder of theatrical release history.  Hey, who just whispered “loser” under their breath?  I heard that!

The film opens with Elizabeth (Anita Briem) finding her antique importer father dead from a werewolf attack.  She requests the services of private investigator Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) and his assistant Marcus (Sam Huntington).  Seems Dylan is an expert in the paranormal world but – you guessed it – gave that world up a long time ago after the death of the love of his life.  Gee, I wonder if something will happen to get him to take the case.  Indeed it does as Marcus is killed by a 7-foot tall zombie on steroids and this gets Dylan back into the game.  As he explains to Elizabeth, Dylan is the one guy selected by the undead to be the human gateway between their world and the world of the living.  If you have a problem, he is the one who takes care of it.

And, of course, there is a big problem. Seems the vampire and werewolf factions are feuding over an ancient silver dagger known as the Heart of Belial. Whoever possesses this will be able to resurrect a demon that will wipe out all of the undead at their all-powerful bidding. So we are basically looking at undead class warfare (or the plot of BLADE [1998]). Since he was bitten by a zombie, Dylan’s partner-in-crime solving Marcus is resurrected, but doesn’t fancy the zombie lifestyle.  Their investigation leads them to a bunch of creature characters from Dylan’s past including vampire Vargas (Taye Diggs), who is grateful to Dylan for taking out his competition back in the day, to werewolf kingpin Gabriel (Peter Stormare) and his son Wolfgang (former Olympian and pro-wrestler Kurt Angle).  So Dylan has to bust out his old bag (literally) of supernatural tricks to solve this mystery.

There isn’t really a whole lot to say about this film – it isn’t great, it isn’t terrible, it is just sort of there.  Director Kevin Munroe (TMNT) makes his live action debut here and everything is serviceable. Well, except for making the vampires emo goth TWILIGHT wannabes with bad haircuts.  Can we put a stake through the heart of this trend already?  There are some cool monsters with actual prosthetic effects and the film is never boring.  Unfortunately, Munroe is let down by a really terrible script by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (soon to bless us with the CONAN remake).  Man, this stinker is bad as they hit every film noir cliché in the books.  I’m sure their defense to that criticism is “we meant it to be like that” but that is unacceptable (and unbelievable in my book) when you have lines like, “I never knew what love was until I lost it.”  I seriously wish I had a pen and paper handy to write down all the formula lines these poor actors had to utter.  I’m glad I didn’t though as I might have full-blown arthritis by the end of this film’s running time.  For every little cool thing they did (vampires selling their blood as a drug; silver knuckles for fighting werewolves), they matched it with bad things (zombie support groups; the obligatory vampire dance club).  Even worse, from the grievances I’ve read online by Dylan Dog comic fans, the screenwriters have apparently taken out all of the source material’s more eccentric elements to make it blander. Don’t you remember Pa Kent telling Superman that being different is a good thing?

And speaking of the Man of Steel (worst…segue…ever), you have Brandon Routh, the now unemployed Superman, in the lead role here and he looks the part.  The filmmakers cleverly capitalize on his fame by reteaming him with Huntington (aka Jimmy Olsen) from SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006).  The duo definitely has good chemistry, but that is ruined by the horrible script (“they were out of Caucasian arms in your size”).  The rest of the cast is blah.  You know you are in trouble when Kurt F’N Angle gives one of the film’s better performances. Briem, who can’t keep a sweater on her shoulder to save her life, is sort of just there as the female love interest.  Believe it or not, Routh and Huntington have a better romantic chemistry. Taye Diggs is doing what he always does – suave Taye Diggs but with fangs this time.  And finally there is Peter Stormare. Whooboy, he must have really taken his role as a werewolf seriously as he chews on more scenery than should be allowed.  Seriously, this makes his performance in Romero’s BRUISER (2000) look subtle.

As it stands, DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT is the embodiment of average, straight down the middle of the road horror filmmaking.  It won’t insult your grey matter like PIRANHA 3-D (2010), but it ain’t going to replace the other Tiziano Sclavi adaptation DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (aka CEMETERY MAN; 1994) any time soon. Oddly enough, the opening credits of this appear to have several visual nods to Michele Soavi’s classic.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say, but it won’t get on the same level, Mr. Munroe.  Dylan’s business cards succinctly read “No pulse? No problem.” Ha, you guys are making it too easy for me as this film definitely suffers from no pulse, but that is a huge problem.  If you are hankering for some neo-noir monstrous mayhem, I would suggest the vastly superior CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991) instead.  That’ll be $20.

Just for kicks, an ad for the Dylan Dog Horror Fest in Milan from the early 90s:

Moments of Clarity:

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