As a fan of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas thrillers, I was tremendously excited when The Mummy director Stephen Sommers latched onto the story and took steps to turn it into a major film franchise. My anticipation only grew when Anton Yelchin, previously the star of the horrifically underrated Fright Night remake, was cast in the lead role. Though I never would have pegged Yelchin for the part, I honestly couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role once his name came up. Then, just as fans were preparing to mark their calendars, something odd happened, and not in a punny way. Legal disputes killed the film’s marketing campaign and left it lying dormant on Sommers’ shelf, for months on end. Earlier this year, it did see a theatrical run, albeit a shockingly brief one, and I regrettably missed it then. Luckily, with Odd Thomas now hitting Blu-Ray, I was finally able to see the fruits of Sommers’ labor.
In Sommers, Odd Thomas found a true fan. The director, who also wrote the script and produced, clearly adores the quirky, spooky atmosphere of Koontz’s books, and he’s mostly successful at recreating it on screen. Pico Mundo, the small California town at the center of the film, looks appropriately idyllic and homely, and characters interact with an enjoyable (if slightly silly) joie de vivre. It’s exceedingly rare for a film adaptation to take such care to be true to its source material, but Sommers’ efforts certainly made this fan feel right at home.
The director’s biggest success is his fiercely loyal treatment of protagonist Odd, a fry cook who possesses the ability to peer into the spirit world. Or, as he so triumphantly puts it, “I see dead people… But then, by god, I actually do something about it.” The combination of Yelchin’s understated charisma and Sommers’ handle on dialogue allows the film to capture Odd’s zany enthusiasm and inquisitive spirit. For his part, Yelchin embraces the camp nature of the character instead of attempting to find deep dramatic pathos where there isn’t any. In the hands of a lesser actor, Odd’s earnest narration could have been supremely cloying, but Yelchin pulls it off.
In addition to ghosts, Odd also see bodachs, nasty supernatural creatures that appear around people and towns destined for future calamity. When the bodachs show up in full force in Pico Mundo, paying special attention to the repulsive newcomer Odd calls Fungus Bob (Shuler Hensley, physically hulking enough for the part), he begins sleuthing around in hopes of preventing the massive bloodshed he knows is coming. Though there are a few holes in this story, particularly around Odd’s ability to immediately catch onto some leads and totally miss others, the plot does allow Sommers to work in the nightmarish special effects for which he’s best known. In particular, the bodachs are a truly chilling creation, slithering and creeping through scenes, each resembling a hideous cross between a bat and a hyena.
As Odd Thomas barrels on toward its thrilling, explosive conclusion, Sommers keeps the pace brisk enough that some weak developments don’t derail the proceedings. Unfortunately, even his tight direction can’t distract from the weaker supporting actors, most notably Addison Timlin as Odd’s beloved girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn. Whereas Yelchin’s confident screen presence is an ideal match with Odd’s over-the-top energy, Timlin struggles to give Stormy much personality. Even as she makes cute with Odd and fires off lines like “Loop me in, odd one,” nothing about the character is particularly endearing. That’s a shame, considering the highly emotional turn her relationship with Odd takes late in the film and the fact that Timlin really looks the part.
Worse still is Willem Dafoe, who can’t muster up much energy in the role of Police Chief Wyatt Porter, who begrudgingly asks for Odd’s help in solving cold cases. Though he shows a few sparks of life early in the game, the actor sleep-walks through the vast majority of his scenes, leaving Yelchin and Timlin to supply the enthusiasm.
Mostly, Odd Thomas is harmless fun, lively and witty enough to make up for its shortcomings. Yelchin is absolutely fantastic, and his excellent portrayal of Odd both overcomes his mediocre support and makes me wish that a sequel was possible. The final scenes certainly set one up, and Sommers and Yelchin likely have enough affection for Koontz’s creation to revisit the series’ universe, but factors outside of the movie itself shut down sequel talk before it ever started. What a pity – Odd Thomas is a lighthearted, faithful adaptation that’s, despite its weaknesses, much better than anyone had any right to expect.
The Blu-Ray for Odd Thomas was given a strong 1080p transfer that pays special attention to color. Sommers employs a vibrant color pallette, most noticeably in the scenes set at the ice cream parlor where Stormy works. Attention to detail is exceptional throughout and goes a long way toward selling the supernatural aspects of Odd Thomas – again, the bodachs are fantastically creepy, and some jump-out shots of them pack an added punch because of the imaginative construction of their insectoid faces.
The film’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Track does a solid job of mixing crisp dialogue with sharp sound effects. The bodachs hiss and crawl throughout the film, making indecipherable and highly unnerving noises sure to satisfy fans of the books, and the simpler sound effects, like slamming doors, gunshots and roaring fireballs all feel appropriately impactful. John Swihart’s score had the unenviable task of balancing Odd’s scary quest to prevent a town-wide tragedy with his sweet romance with Stormy, and though there are a few places where it’s clear that Swihart was struggling with tone, the score sounds great, as does the film as a whole.
No special features, which is a massive disappointment, especially given the fact that the film was rushed onto home media platforms so quickly. You would have thought that Sommers and co. would have something to say about the film. The only thing that’s sort-of a ‘bonus feature’ is a nifty lenticular print attached to the cover.
The Blu-Ray’s lack of special features make it hard to recommend, but anyone who has seen a film by Sommers before knows how good the guy is with effects. Odd Thomas is no exception, so if you want the film to have that extra oomph, there’s nothing not to like about the video and audio transfer that the movie received for Blu-Ray. As for the film itself, it’s a mixed bag, but Yelchin is well-cast and Sommers knows how to work his scenes for maximum chills and thrills. It’s undeniably strange and certainly not for everyone, but fans of the books will appreciate that Odd’s quirky voice and suitably strange world have been largely kept intact.
Stephen Sommers' visual flair and Anton Yelchin's winning lead performance just about make up for the by-the-numbers plotting and some weak supporting performances present in this goofy guilty pleasure.