September 26, 2011


I’d love to chalk the failure of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night to vampire fatigue, and indeed that’s part of its problem. So inundated are we with tales of bloodsuckers and the secret lives they lead that a movie needs to really deliver something original if it wants to stand out. Dylan Dog doesn’t, content instead to regurgitate tired old clichés about evil vamps in Armani suits who hang out in trendy nightclubs and plot to destroy the world in some damn way or another. That creative laziness expands outward to engulf every moment of the film, from the shockingly by-the-numbers detective voice-overs to the very notion of a supernatural detective. Hit the jump for my full review.

dylan-dog-dead-of-night-sam-huntington-brawl-01Brandon Routh stars as the title character, a hard-boiled PI who works in some undefined way with the boggies and beasties of the universe. They live secret lives in the city of New Orleans, and generally prefer to stay hidden. Dylan’s role in this world is never made entirely clear; he works for supernatural clients… except he’s out of the game and now does mundane divorce cases… until a mysterious woman hires him to find her father’s supernatural killer… except that she may have ulterior motives and…

Wait, okay, I’m confused. Not intrigued. Not mystified. Just confused. So is Dylan Dog by the look of it: plastering decades-old film noir tropes over reheated shticks from True Blood in an effort to make them appear somehow new or interesting. It doesn’t work, and turns the film from a fun B-movie exercise into a tedious slog through truly exhausted material.

The main character himself doesn’t help matters. Routh does his best, but he’s too fresh-faced to sell us on the grizzled gumshoe routine. Furthermore, said gumshoe has nothing to distinguish himself from the rest of the trenchcoat-wearing stereotypes. Dylan Dog is supposedly a huge comic book figure in Italy, but watching him fight his way through half-baked tough guy dialogue and hoary old exposition, one is hard pressed to understand why. Presumably, he holds some secret appeal that the producers of the movie missed; a similar creation from the same author – Francesco Dellamorte – did much better in the superior 1994 outing Cemetery Man. But this hero barely registers a pulse, swept aside by a thousand contemporaries who do more or less the exact same thing as he.

dylan-dog-dead-of-night-movie-image-brandon-routh-anita-briem-01Ironically, it’s his sidekick who does the most to rescue the film. Marcus Decker (Sam Huntington, who played Jimmy Olsen to Routh’s Superman) gets dispatched by a hulking zombie early in the film and soon returns as a member of the undead. Other zombies help him out in a sort of second-tier AA program: a funny conceit that provides plenty of genuinely interesting scenes amid all the mystery-solving drek. Indeed, one wonders why the producers didn’t just craft an entire film around that, since it stands so far above the remainder.

That, of course, is neither here nor there. Dylan Dog is what it is and – regardless of the particulars – utterly fails at its appointed task. Its dismal box office receipts and worse reviews (a 3-percent rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes) aptly reflects its misbegotten status. The Blu-ray follows that pattern and contains no extras whatsoever: just the film itself, transferred indifferently and left to rot. Routh is better than this, and one hopes the results here are merely a hiccup in his career. But that doesn’t make the experience anything other than 90-odd wasted minutes.



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