Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010)

A while back I thought I should try and read some Dylan Dog. But I abandoned that idea abruptly after finishing the first book. Apart from the fact that that first volume dealt with zombies – creatures I never really liked – it was chiefly the sidekick, Groucho, who was the absolute deal-breaker for me. I could not see me enduring any more of him.

Be that as it may, there are many fans of this Italian comic book franchise, and so some producer somewhere decided to give it the Hollywood treatment. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night transplants the hero from his original London location to New Orleans – and thankfully drops the character of Groucho.

 

Dylan Dog is a private investigator doing run-of-the-mill jobs, like divorce cases and such. In the past he also dealt with supernatural cases, but a tragedy made him give up that line of work. However, a new, mysterious case comes his way which drags him back into this secret world against his better judgement. Too many players are involved in this affair, and too many people (or creatures) die, so it will take our hero a while to figure out this case…

 

Starring Brandon Routh in the title role and Sam Huntington as the (new) plucky sidekick Marcus, the film throws you right into the middle of its mysterious and slightly unsettling world. It is a pretty efficient – if standard – introduction, which uses some nice, eerie shot composition.

The film also employs some great locations, but overall its visual appearance suffers from budgetary restrictions that become most evident in the monster make-up department. Even TV shows in the 1990s did a better job than that. With no major studio involved, the film (allegedly) only had a budget of around 20 million US dollars, which is basically a shoestring budget for this type of film.

As for the cast, they are mostly decent. Sam Huntington in particular does a great job, but I believe that Routh is slightly miscast. He was a perfect match for the “boy scout” role of Superman in 2006 but I consider Dylan to be more edgy, more flamboyant. Admittedly, the hero in this film is supposed to be in retirement and in mourning, but still I believe Routh is too bland for the role. Other down-sides to the acting include odd choices made by Peter Stormare, and the fact that some characters (such as those played by Anita Briem and Taye Diggs) are either underdeveloped or underused – all things for which I have to blame director Kevin Munroe and possibly the editor Paul Hirsch.

Some people find the film too comedic, but I am OK with that. I believe that the overall tone of the film is still quite dark and all-in-all convincing. And whatever you want to call the tone of the film, nobody can deny that the film keeps its tone steady.

The film is less successful in keeping a grip on its plot. This rather convoluted plot has many different parties involved, and such a construction needs to be handled carefully if one wants to avoid confusion. It would probably be an exaggeration to call the film’s plot “confusing”, but it certainly feels muddled on more than one occasion. A bit more time devoted to some of the plot’s aspects and a bit more care taken in the presentation and development of key characters might have helped to avoid that. The plot also suffers from some minor plot holes, an oddly paced final showdown, as well as a plot twist that could be seen from miles away.

There are references to the comic books, such as a Marx Brothers poster and the name of the street at which Dylan’s office is located. Also, a character in the film is named after the comic book’s creator, Tiziano Sclavi.

This film features zombies, werewolves and vampires. All are allotted a roughly equal amount of time, but we never really learn much about any of them. There is extremely little vampire or werewolf lore and so we know next to nothing about the supernatural history of the world the film is set in.

Which leads me to a recommendation dilemma: If you are interested in vampire films, there is no reason to watch Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. If you want to see an entertaining demon hunter film there are probably dozens that are better. If you are looking for a “niche” film, or something with cult-classic potential, this is not it, as it is far too mainstream for that. And if you are curious about Dylan Dog as a pop-cultural icon, you are far better off reading one or two of the comic books.

This is by no means a horrible film. It is at times entertaining, but it has too many short-comings to be called “good”. It is a “just-above-mediocre”, middling sort of film – which just isn’t good enough for a broadly mainstream, middle-of-the-road project.

So while I am more than ready to rate this film at 6 out of 10, I have to suggest that you give this film a miss.

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