Screen Rant's Ben Kendrick reviews Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
The 2011 summer blockbuster movie season is packed with comic book adaptations: Thor, X-Men: First Class, Priest, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Green Lantern. However, in a film-scape loaded with familiar comic properties, a lesser-known hero has already hit the big screen this summer: paranormal investigator Dylan Dog. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night isn’t the first cinematic interpretation of the Dylan Dog universe. In 1994 director Michele Soavi filmed Dellamorte Dellamore starring Rupert Everett as Francesco Dellamorte (a side character in the Italian comic series) who dressed in the iconic Dylan Dog outfit – though the titular lead never appeared in the film. The movie received mostly negative reviews in the U.S. and abroad.
More than 15 years later, director Kevin Munroe (TMNT) and former Superman Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), with the help of independent film companies Platinum Studios and Hyde Park Films, set out to give Dylan Dog fans an improved film adaptation. Does Dylan Dog: Dead of Night manage to succeed in capturing the whit and charm of the printed series or, like the film’s many undead inhabitants, should the filmmakers have just let the character rest in peace?
Unfortunately, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night falls short of being either an entertaining adaptation of the Dylan Dog character or a satisfying film in general.
If you’re unfamiliar with the basic Dylan Dog: Dead of Night premise, Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) is an ex-paranormal investigator living in New Orleans who, following the death of his girlfriend (at the hands of a vampire clan), hangs up his potions as well as red and black duds in favor of normal P.I. work – until he investigates the death of a well-off importer. Dylan turns down the case, but when his friend and associate, Marcus Adams (Sam Huntington), is killed by an undead monster, the investigator is thrown back into the paranormal business – beating down the doors of vampires, werewolves, and zombies alike in search of answers. The first two-thirds of the Dead of Night story are somewhat entertaining – though character development, as well as the hope for a satisfying end sequence, go out the window by the final act.
The pairing of Brandon Routh and Sam Huntington (who shared a similar dynamic as Clark Kent and Jimmy Olson in Superman Returns) works well for the majority of the film. Routh manages to offer up a straightforward, but enjoyably tongue-in-cheek, performance as Dylan Dog – pulling off a lot of weighted exposition (such as the telltale signs of werewolf coat fibers) with a knowing smirk on his face. Huntington is also competent as the recently undead Marcus Allen, who spends the majority of the movie learning to embrace his new-found zombie upkeep regimens (bleach for your teeth, worms for dinner). Huntington keeps things light – especially when paired against Dylan Dog’s no-nonsense demeanor.
Taye Diggs is less successful as the primary antagonist, Vargas - a ruthless vampire with a thirst for power (and blood). Diggs has a few good moments in the film but the performance is caught in a middle-ground between charisma and caricature – resulting in a number of especially flat encounters. It’s hard to blame any of the actors, though. Even Routh’s exposition-heavy performance helps audiences understand the complicated undead world in New Orleans - but the story-beats ultimately convolute interesting relationships and flat or generic dialogue deflates one tense confrontation after another.
There’s an almost interesting “whodunit” at the core of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night – but the filmmakers attempt to cram so much of the comic-book universe into the film that it’s hard to make sense of each twist in the story. Much of the film is centered on the search for an ancient relic – which the various undead clans are clamoring to either protect or obtain. By the end, subtleties fall by the wayside and motivations become clearer (comparatively) but – the point-by-point progression has gone back and forth so many times it’s hard to recall exactly how the film gets there.
Similarly, the climax convolutes prior rules established in the film – in favor of trying to skirt some of the responsibility of the final revelations. Any character-level pay-offs are thrown out the window and the final moments rob Dylan Dog of having to sew-up the crisis at hand – as well as face any sort of emotional fallout.
For fans of 80s-era monster films, one of the more interesting aspects of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night will probably be the film’s implementation of practical effects. In a world of CGI-heavy comic book films, Dead of Night was produced on a modest budget - around $8 million. In spite of the messy story, certain movie-buffs may find it entertaining to see the crew work around the financial limitations, with Thriller-like werewolf make-up and a number of transformations that occur when the sweeping camera is obscured for a second. While the effects will certainly put-off moviegoers looking for an adventure on-par with the epic scale expected in the current comic book film landscape, for some movie fans Dead of Night could be an enjoyable-enough throw-back to the monster/action films of the late 80s and early 90s – before CGI made it cheaper to digitize creatures.
In the end, while it’s unlikely to serve the tastes of fans looking for an action-packed summer blockbuster, a pair of enjoyable performances from Routh and Huntington prevent Dylan Dog: Dead of Night from being a total throwaway. However, the pair’s chemistry can’t make up for an extremely convoluted, and mostly soulless story – even when there’s a giant zombie running around.
If you're still on the fence about Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, check out the trailer below:
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Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is currently playing in theaters.