Title: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
Directed By: Kevin Munroe
Starring: Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Anita Briem, Peter Stormare, Taye Diggs, Kurt Angle, Brian Steele, Marco St. John, Kent Jude Bernard
In a time where seemingly everyone has a thing for undead creatures, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night has everything going for it. It comes fully loaded with vampires, zombies and werewolves as well as a story blueprint courtesy of the beloved Italian comic. However, director Kevin Munroe seemingly throws all of his assets out the window to do I don’t know what, but it certainly has nothing to do with making us scared, laugh or even be entertained for that matter.
Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) works as a private investigator in New Orleans, however, thanks to a past predicament, his clientele has changed quite a bit over the years. Originally, Dylan got in the business to keep an eye on the living dead factions, the vampires, werewolves and zombies, and keep the peace. When business got personal, Dylan snapped and killed those who he thought were responsible, compelling the undead to label him a monster hunter, ultimately forcing Dylan to steer clear of his usual crowds.
However, when Dylan’s hired by Elizabeth Ryan (Anita Briem) to solve a supposed werewolf murder and then his assistant, Marcus (Sam Huntington), is attacked, Dylan can no longer ignore the unrest brewing on his old turf and is forced to take action. With his now zombiefied assistant by his side, Dylan and Marcus hit the streets to figure out who’s responsible for the recent string of killings so he can put an end to the uproar and keep the undead’s existence under wraps.
This brief overview merely scratches the surface of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. While the film may clock in at a bloated 107 minutes, it’s still not enough to explain all of the necessary elements of this world. Generally, the story works. A human moderating the different species of undead so as to maintain peace by acting as an unbiased faction? Smart idea. What ultimately eats the story alive is all the vocabulary, silly names and nonexistent back-story. Wolfgang? Borelli? If you’re quick enough to put these names to faces it’s either very impressive or perhaps means you’re familiar with the source material.
Regardless, judging Dylan Dog as a standalone film is what we’re doing here and in that sense, those unfamiliar with the comics will drown in the barrage of information that’s never properly explained. First and foremost, Dylan himself comes with zero character development, a killer in terms of engaging with the film and in constructing the rules and regulations of the land. Dylan is human, but how does he defend himself against these physically superior beings? Why doesn’t a vampire or werewolf just rip him to shreds for what he’s done? No, not everything in a film like this needs a detailed explanation, but when so little of the film’s plot is convincing in the least, these questions consume the piece’s entertainment value.
Making Dylan an even more uninteresting character is Routh. He’s as flat as his character’s arc. Once Dylan is compelled to return to the undead side to take care of business, that’s about as far as he goes and that’s merely about ten minutes into the film. From that point on we get a stone-faced Routh attempting to act tough by putting zero inflection in his voice. Dylan stomps around like he’s better than the folks he’s assigned to keep an eye on and, even worse, better than the audience, too. Dylan is always one step ahead of the viewer and, particularly when he opts to announce it via voiceover, it’s annoying and insulting.
The only character in this film that manages to make somewhat of a connection is Huntington’s Marcus. Unlike Dylan, Marcus goes on a bit of an interesting journey, having to get used to life as a zombie. Like the audience, he’s new to all of this and it’s fun exploring the world with him. Then again, the character also comes jam-packed with unfunny jokes. Huntington is a talented actor with decent timing, so while some of his gags may flatline, it’s not enough to kill the character’s likability.
On the other hand, both Briem and Taye Diggs as the evil vampire, Vargas, flounder big time. The camera simply doesn’t like Briem. There’s nothing stimulating about her in the least and that’s further worsened by the fact that she’s playing an almost entirely expendable character. Then, there’s the obligatory romance, which, well, is just that, forced to fill the requirement. Her sole redeeming moment comes in the third act when we get the film’s best action sequence. Not only is it the only battle that actually requires the participants to do more than shove someone or pull a trigger, but it’s the only one filmed in a way that doesn’t make the viewer dizzy. Poor Diggs on the other hand is not only completely miscast, but forced to work with an entirely one-dimensional role. Vargas is a flat out boring villain. He’s almost like a school bully. He walks around all tough intimidating people into keeping clear of him, but give him a nice shove and he falls hard.
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is just an all around failure. The story itself is poorly structured, the characters are weak and the direction absolutely nonsensical on every front. The camera really never captures the right moment. When we’re aching to see someone’s reaction, we’re stuck with the individual that’s talking. When we should be catching the passion behind someone’s eyes when they’re in the midst of a monologue, we’re staring at a meaningless prop or heap of misused screen space. The visuals are so poorly framed they also often diminish the value of visuals effects or hair and makeup that have the potential to make for exciting imagery. A horror comedy with a lame hero, ridiculous story, villains sans scare factor, bad jokes and poorly shot fight sequences? Unworthy of your time on every front.
By Perri Nemiroff