Upon the theatrical release of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, the film was bombarded with negative reviews from across the pond, where fans of the Tiziano Sclavi’s Italian comic series chastised the film for not only deviating from its London locale (the movie is set in New Orleans), but dumping several “key” characters and, ultimately, making a mess of the cult-favorite character’s motion picture debut. Seeing as how I’d never set eyes upon an issue of the comic, and was only vaguely familiar with the series thanks to Michelle Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man; a wonderful Italian horror/comedy inspired by Sclavi’s creation), I went into this one with zero preconceptions and zero expectations. And you know what? It ain’t half bad.
Brandon Routh stars as the titular “nightmare detective” Dylan Dog. Lately, Dylan has eschewed paranormal assignments in favor of more traditional detective fare (ie; spying on cheating spouses), much to the chagrin of his assistant, Marcus (Sam Huntington), who pines for the limelight once afforded by the duos’ high-profile cases of the past. When a businessman is brutally killed by a werewolf, however, Dylan is visited by the victim’s daughter, Elizabeth (Anita Briem), who hopes to secure his services in finding the creature responsible for her father’s death. Dylan, who, for his own reasons is content with the pedestrian side of private investigation, politely refuses, but, when Marcus is also murdered (only to come back as a terrified and rapidly deteriorating zombie), Dylan has no choice but to return to his old stomping grounds with zombie Marcus and Elizabeth in tow. It’s here that we descend into the undead underground; a world only a chosen few humans have knowledge of, where vampires, werewolves, and zombies coexist under a fragile truce that someone seems intent upon breaking. Now Dylan must find the culprit before an all-out war of the undead breaks out on the streets of New Orleans.
As a hardcore Whedonite, I had a lot of fun with Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. The film, directed by TMNT’s Kevin Munroe, has the same sort of borderline camp vibe that made Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and, subsequently, Angel) such irresistibly fun shows, and it’s obvious that Munroe’s gleaned a lot of inspiration from them. We get smart and sexy protagonists in Routh and Briem, a hilariously inept geek-type in Huntington, and a great assortment of supporting monsters, including Taye Diggs as a dangerous-yet-suave Vampire boss, Vargas, and the always-delightful Peter Stormare chewing up the scenery (at times, literally) as lycanthrope leader, Gabriel. Yes, the performances are a bit over-the-top, but so is the subject matter, and, while I can see how fans of the purportedly more somber and surreal comic series would cry foul, fans of action/horror/comedy who wouldn’t know a Dylan Dog from a Great Dane will find much to love about this film, provided they’re not expecting cutting-edge special effects or big-budget spectacle. Personally, I liked the intimate feeling of the film, and was especially pleased to see the emphasis on practical effects over excessive CGI work (of which there is admittedly a lot of, but nowhere near as much as has become the norm for these types of films). The practical make-up is sometimes less than convincing, but, once again, adds to the campy charm of the proceedings.
Now, would I have liked the movie were it a more faithful adaptation of the comic series? Well, seeing as how I’ve no clue as to what the comic is actually like, I can’t really say. I’ve heard that Dellamorte Dellamore is close in tone to Sclavi’s work, but, to be honest, I don’t find Dylan Dog that far off from the tone of that film. That’s not to say Dylan Dog is even remotely in the same league as Dellamorte Dellamore (a film I consider one of the finest - if not THE finest – genre films of the 1980’s), but, while Soavi’s film is decidedly more dreamy and romantic than Munroe’s, both sport a heavy reliance on humor, action, and the occasional scare to get their respective points across, so they are at least somewhat alike in that respect. The bottom line is that, while I’ve no frame of reference to adequately compare Dylan Dog to its source material, I do know how difficult fans of a particular property can be to please (hell, I’m always disappointed in films based on comics and books I love), so I guess I’m just saying that those who’ve no investment in Dylan Dog, the comic book character, should probably take the negative reviews of Dylan Dog, the film, with a grain of salt. Then again, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, so maybe you should ignore my review altogether!
Dylan Dog comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Fox, and sports a mostly pleasing 2.35:1 transfer that’s occasionally marred by some soft edges and a deep contrast. It’s a solid enough image, but some of the fine detail is lost in murkier scenes, and colors are somewhat muted at times, especially in the dimly lit interior shots, where blacks are so intense as to become a touch distracting. The film is complimented by an aggressive 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that offers a nicely immersive mix, making great use of the rear speakers for atmospheric effects, while keeping much of the main aural action front and center.
Sadly, Fox has chosen to unleash Dylan Dog with nary a bonus feature in sight. It’s a shame as I recall seeing many interviews and behind-the-scenes “blog” type footage online prior to the film’s release, and I can’t imagine it would have been much of a hassle to include that material here. Unfortunately, them’s the breaks for critical/commercial flops like Dylan Dog, regardless of whether the film deserves it or not.
While I enjoyed Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, I seem to be in the minority as not only fans of the comics, but mainstream critics, as well, derided this film to the point where I feel many won’t even bother to give this film a chance. I think that’s a shame as, while it’s certainly no classic, it’s a harmless, fun, and entertaining slice of horror camp that’s deserving of a rental at the very least.