DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2010) Halloween Month continues with a look at the luckless Brandon Routh’s turn as this film’s title character, Tiziano Sclavi’s horror hero from Italian comic books. Sclavi launched Dylan Dog’s series in October of 1986 and under various creative teams the series is still running.
(Years ago I reviewed the film version of Tiziano Sclavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore from 1994.)
Dylan Dog, an investigator of vampires, werewolves and other monsters, is an international cult hero beloved by comics fans around the world … which, of course, meant that any deviation from what the fan-boys wanted would cause them to hamstring the movie adaptation at the box office. The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.
In my opinion Dylan Dog: Dead of Night does not deserve its bad reputation. Compared to the many, many other films and television programs about heroic battlers of the paranormal this was certainly a top shelf production. The fact that this cinematic adaptation came along decades later than it should have is the main problem.
Let’s go by the numbers, knowing full well that budget and projected box office returns limited many of the creative decisions:
I. The Dylan Dog comic book was set in London (?). This movie was set in New Orleans, a change of locale that I actually like, given London’s overuse in horror films. Needless to say, this put the worst type of fan-boys in a VERY bad mood right off the bat.
II. The creative team behind Dylan Dog: Dead of Night kept the mood light. I agree with that choice given the inherent campiness and absurdity of an investigator who encounters werewolves, vampires, zombies, etc in horrific settings that are often reminiscent of Film Noir detective stories. The worst type of fan-boys bemoaned the “lack of the sad and serious tone of the comic books.”
III. In the comic book Dylan Dog’s sidekick in his investigations was Groucho, a Groucho Marx impersonator whose built-in craziness caused him to BE Groucho 24/7. For obvious legal and monetary reasons an American film version could not use Groucho as Dylan’s sidekick. The worst type of fan-boys were even more disenchanted.
IV. The cinematic sidekick for Dylan was a new creation – Marcus, played by Sam Huntington, who had previously appeared with star Brandon Routh in the ill-fated Superman Returns (2006).
(Poor Routh. If only he had also starred in Frank Miller’s 2008 movie The Spirit he could have notched an all-time Hat Trick for starring in unfortunate comic book adaptations. Talk about not even being able to win for losing.)
V. Marcus’ shtick was that he got bitten by a zombie early in the movie and, naturally, became one himself as the story progressed. He had to get used to life as a zombie, which in this movie’s universe, meant he had to acclimate himself to New Orleans’ subculture of zombies. The city also had subcultures of vampires, werewolves, etc in a horror version of the hidden alien races from Men in Black.
Okay, it goes without saying that the worst type of fan-boys grew even huffier and more indignant over this departure from comic book gospel. Like most viewers I had never read the comic books so I went into Dylan Dog: Dead of Night with no preconceived notions.
That meant I was able to enjoy the film for what it was: a fun dip into action and horror with a fair amount of humor sprinkled in. To this day I am convinced that if Bruce Campbell (whom I really like) had played the title character then this film would have a much better reputation despite its departure from comic book canon.
Plotwise a beautiful but enigmatic client (played to perfection by Anita Briem) entangles Dylan and Marcus in a case involving vampire and werewolf crime families plus stolen artifacts. As the investigation deepens ties to the unsolved murder of Dylan’s lady love come to the surface, too.
Taye Diggs plays the lead vampire gangster and in my view does a good job. There’s a decent mix of action, horror and character bits. Routh and Huntington have great chemistry, too, and Briem kicks enough butt to make her character pretty impressive as well.
Considering that the – to me inferior – Resident Evil and Underworld flicks got sequel after sequel it’s a shame that Brandon Routh’s run as Dylan Dog stopped after this lone movie outing. He and the rest of the creative team on Dylan Dog: Dead of Night deserved better.
Plus Routh’s back-to- back comic book flops meant we never got to see him star in projects like the recent Green Hornet or Lone Ranger movies. Oh, wait. Never mind. +++
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