Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a fun comedy/horror whodunnit with a supernatural twist. Based on an Italian graphic novel about a loner detective for the undead, Dylan Dog has everything from the silly sidekick to cannibal zombies. It also boasts some great old-school practical effects. With a limited release this weekend, this Platinum Studios film delivers plenty of movie fun in the style of those campy 80′s monster flicks.
Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) is a private eye for the undead. It’s his calling, but after his girlfriend is murdered he wants nothing more to do with the world of the supernatural. Fast forward a few years, and Dylan has turned into a regular loner private dick who’s chronically money-strapped. His eager assistant Marcus (Sam Huntington) is desperate for their detective agency to go places.
After a call from a distraught woman about the murder of her father, Dylan finds himself face to face with a case involving the life-challenged denizens of New Orleans. He refuses to take the case. But when Marcus is murdered, Dylan determines to get to the bottom of things, no matter what.
Something new and sinister is in town, but no one’s talking. There’s a giant mutant zombie on the loose, and a bigger secret behind it, but the vamps and the werewolves have their own agendas. The zombies don’t know much either. Dylan, with the help of a Marcus-returned-from-the-dead, follows the clues and manages to escape one life-threatening situation after another until the case is solved.
There’s a tongue-in-cheek humor in this film, a light-hearted silliness that makes the horror elements a natural and fitting backdrop to the murder mystery. It’s kind of a light parody of those neo-noir crime films and the hardboiled detective stories of the early 20th century; even down to Dylan’s voice narrating the story at certain points.
The film deviates from its source material a bit, as Tiziano Sclavi’s story is set in London and Dylan’s sidekick is a Groucho Marx-inspired funnyman. Though the film version stays true to key elements of the graphic novel, like Dylan’s “uniform” of a red shirt and a black jacket, his Volkswagon Beetle, the tragic history with his girlfriend, and his chronic money troubles.
Comic sidekick Groucho changed quite a bit for the film adaptation. Copyright issues forced the sidekick’s re-invention into the undead Marcus. Personally, I like Marcus’ character better than the idea of a wise-cracking Groucho. Marcus still provides the funnyman sidekick, but his freaked-out zombie-in-denial is a great comic foil to Dylan’s calm, cool front man.
At first it was weird seeing Routh in the role of jaded private eye after he starred in Warner Bros. Superman reboot. Much like Christopher Reeve, no matter what role Routh is playing, I see Superman. This eventually wore off, as Routh gave a competent performance, though I wouldn‘t go so far as to say nuanced. In a way, Routh was playing yet another superhero. Dylan Dog‘s super power is knowledge of the occult, and the ability to kick the undead‘s ass.
Director Kevin Munroe (TMNT) caught the spirit of light-hearted parody and comic book homage in Dylan Dog. The way certain scenes are framed and the angles of the action capture that graphic novel feel. The script penned by writing team Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (Sahara, upcoming Conan) missed dazzling, but settled comfortably in fun and light.
The love interest/client was played by Anita Briem. Unfortunately, I thought her one-note performance smacked more of Euro-trash slut than vulnerable damsel-in-distress. She was hard to watch, and definitely detracted from the film. The stand-out performance came from Huntington. His cute whiney zombie stole scenes left and right. Huntington has a wide-eyed boyishness that worked well against Routh’s superhero good looks.
Peter Stormare played a werewolf patriarch, and for once I wasn’t impressed with his performance. I usually appreciate his quirky deliveries no matter the role, but he was certainly off his game in this one. In fact, for those of you who remember him playing the devil in Constantine, his role in Dylan Dog will look very familiar. Taye Diggs played Vargas, the vampire Godfather, in an over-the-top performance that fit the mood of the film.
Thankfully, given the budget of the film, Dylan Dog did not depend on CGI. It was there, and noticeable, but fortunately used very little. Instead filmmakers relied on practical effects and I applaud them. I’m sick of the over-reliance on CG monster effects in genre film. Dylan Dog had some awesome non-CG special effects/make-up, which I think added to the realism of the horror aspect of the film and the overall believability.
Platinum Studios is setting itself up for a possible film franchise, as the Dylan Dog comics have been around for decades, and are still being churned out. I, for one, would go see the next adventure of Dylan Dog and his zombie sidekick. This film is silly and certainly won‘t stick with you for long, but it’s a lot of old-school fun.