Dylan Dog comic books aren't too popular in America. In fact, there are very few stories from the Italian-born pulp created by Tiziano Sclavi that have reached stateside, as the million selling book does best in the European market. Dark Horse Comics, the American distributor, has only released seven English volumes of the story, the last coming in 2002. So...to see an English language film based on the character that didn't so much bomb as went widely unnoticed is a bit odd, to be sure, especially as 'Cemetery Man' aka 'Dellamorte Dellamore,' another character of Sclavi's creation, was adapted to film in the proper Italian with an English version fitting the lead actor's native tongue available as well.. Yet, here's 'Dylan Dog,' with the subtitle "Dead of Night," directed by Kevin Munroe of 'TMNT' "fame."
The apparent change in mood from source to screen matches the change in location (from London to NOLA), while faithful sidekick Groucho is nowhere to be found, same as in the American comic adaptations, due to the Marx estate and legal issues. While fans will surely notice a still photo with a character wearing a Groucho-esque glasses/mustachio disguise that quickly passes by as a nod to what could not be done, they will surely also be disappointed with the liberties taken that almost make it a completely different property than the one licensed. The 3 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based off a smaller sample than most modern films get, is earned off of a single positive mark. That's a bad, bad sign.
Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh)'s days of being a supernatural private investigator are long gone, or so he thought. After losing the love of his life to the scheming undead, Dylan has changed his life's path, now working regular, human cases, simple infidelities and the like. But, like it or not, he's dragged into a case for the daughter (Anita Briem) of an importer/smuggler, that began with a supernatural killing, and is beyond complicated, with werewolves, vampires, zombies, even demons involved in the twisted mystery. With faithful sidekick Marcus (Sam Huntington), who is at a transitional stage in "life," Dylan must peel back the layers, working again in a supernatural world where his past links still hold some grudges, in the deadliest case of his career, centering around a strange, legendary artifact.
Even going into this film blind, having never read any of the comics, annuals, or compilations, I can see where fans are upset. 'Dylan Dog: Dead of Night' is a film that tries to do far too much, and by spreading itself so thin, gives just enough to leave everyone wanting in one way or another, rather than appealing to a wider audience. This comedy-slash-supernatural horror/action-slash-noire flick has a constant problem with mood and tone, while pacing issues are beyond apparent and committed acting cannot be seen across the board. There are rarely scenes that can stick to one genre or another, and transitions from scene to scene can be a tad sloppy, leaving little in terms of suspense and cohesion.
It's a real shame, honestly. 'Dylan Dog' has a ton of potential, but is held back in the most frustrating of ways. Dialogue is stunted, cliche, and amazingly dry, often feeling like transitional scenes in a hardcore porn flick. Direction? Nonsensical. I almost threw my remote at my television set when a scene featured one continuing line of dialogue, yet a big jump in location, with characters still moving their lips. I get the idea of using audio from one cut over another, continuing, but this didn't feel like that very classic technique. It felt lazy and stupid, and pulled me right out of the film. The scene transitions can be very comic book-esque, which isn't bad, but many are so dramatically different, it pulls you, again, out of the film. Makeup effects are amazingly awful, and this low-to-medium budgeted film looks and feels like one with a tenth the resources behind it. I almost gave up on the film when Dylan invades a vampire sect late in the film, guns ablaze. The "stylistic" approach to the shot makes you look at his face the entire time as he randomly shoots his weapons and we hear noises. In other words, we never see what he's shooting at, so it's really just a cheap way to do what would be an intricate shot. It's these types of moments that are hard to miss, and I put the blame solely on Munroe for such moments.
'Dylan Dog: Dead of Night' isn't expertly acted, but the performances, for the most part, won't pull you out like almost everything else in the film. Routh is just fine, serviceable, mostly, hardly evoking leading man confidence like he did in 'Superman Returns,' while Huntington can steal more than a few scenes with his slightly over the top portrayal of a very over the top character. Briem...well, there's a reason I said for the most part, as she's awful, just awful, in her leading lady role; the only mystery around her is why she was cast in the first place. Peter Stormare doesn't get enough scenes to chew, sadly, while bulky wrestler/former olympian Kurt Angle has a small role as a werewolf that's kind of fun. Taye Diggs (he of 'Equilibrium' and 'Go' lore) should never, ever be cast as a vampire again; producers and directors, take note of this, as he has as much charisma and sneer as a sack of potatoes. Regular monster portrayer Brian Steele has a few parts here, as well, for horror fanatics looking for a deadly big man in their viewings.
In the end, 'Dylan Dog: Dead of Night' comes off as a slightly less interesting, far less immersive 'Hellboy.' The plot twists around, predictably, and never really sells you on the mystery or intrigue. The fact that the undead and supernatural are played as so common place to those in the know, the only ones they ever encounter in the film, is a nice touch, and the depiction of zombies is quite hilarious, but there's no sense of suspense or dread coming from any supernatural foe, especially not the main threat, who comes across as some kind of poorly designed boss battle from a video game, replete with the ridiculous way he's dispatched. It makes for a brainless Saturday afternoon watch, honestly, and isn't as bad as some critics portrayed it to be. It's far, far, far from perfect, and really could have been more coherent, but taken as comedy first, horror second, it's really quite fun.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Fox brings 'Dylan Dog: Dead of Night' to Blu-ray on a barebones BD25 disc that is Region A marked. There are some horror themed pre-menu trailers that have to be skipped, while the menu is just three tabs, as there isn't even a trailer for the film included.
'Dylan Dog; Dead of Night' is not a visual winner on Blu-ray. It's almost a loser. Sure, it's 1080p, but it's far from stable and dependable. I really enjoyed how well the worn in atmosphere of the film came to life on Blu-ray, as that may very well be this disc's strength, the random object detail, even fleeting as it can be. Textures can be quite nice and enjoyable, edges are fine, with some hair pops but not many, and that's about all the niceties I have to say.
This disc wore me out. I could stand the noise issues, the random spikes, and the fluctuating grain levels that sometimes obscured finer detail. I even could handle the random shakiness, off colors (red shirts that turn purple, white shirts that are blue), and minor aliasing here and there. I could not, though, stand the crushing, or the fact that picture quality was here one minute, gone the next. Belial is a perfect example, as this entirely black tinted baddy sometimes has fine, remarkable detailing, making him lifelike, and then, in the next shot, he can be utterly dull and smooth (due to sharpness and focus, not DNR). The back and forth sharp versus not sharp struggle in this picture is just frustrating and can pull one out of the viewing experience.
I really would be afraid to see this film on DVD, with thrown in chroma fringing and artifacting to boot, especially with the numerous dark moments in this night-heavy film. If this one is meh, I can imagine that disc is a catastrophe.
The lone audio option for 'Dylan Dog' is a very good DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that isn't revolutionary, but is more than enough for the film it's for.
Dialogue doesn't have any problems with clarity, though it doesn't wander outside the front channels. Rears get plenty of light ambience and some localized effects, which are spread a tiny bit too thin, in my opinion, considering how some sequences are full room, and other comparable moments aren't. There are plenty of fine audio spikes, but nothing that requires any adjustment of the volume levels, which is solid. Bass levels are nice enough, just a good highlighter of some moments and randomly dead.
This track handles what's thrown at it more than adequately, and can certainly grab you. It can alo repel you at random due to inactivity.
I wanted to love 'Dylan Dog: Dead of Night,' but I ended up just sorta liking it...somewhat. It has some elements that work to its favor greatly, while others keep knocking it down a couple pegs at a time. It's a never ending battle between quirky cinema and piss poor direction ruining anything positive that happens. The Blu-ray release of the film has moderate video and good audio qualities, but less extras than a Woody Allen Blu-ray, and that's saying something. It's worth a look, at the very least, but man, just thinking about the film makes me upset that there weren't some more talented people involved behind the camera.