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Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

April 30, 2011
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Based on an Italian paranormal-horror comic by Tiziano Sclavi, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is an unpretentious B movie through and through, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is what you get when the horror-comedy from Shaun of the Dead meets the currently-popular vampire-meets-werewolf genre with a healthy dollop of noir as a baseline.

Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) is, in this incarnation, a private detective in New Orleans. These days he’s working calm cheating-spouse cases where the worst that happens is a jealous husband sticks a gun in your face. But a few years ago, he used to be the one normal guy who kept the peace between rival gangs of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other supernatural beasties hiding in the one city where nobody would ever notice them.

Unfortunately, Dylan’s relatively tranquil existence is threatened when a rich importer/exporter is killed. The police don’t believe the statement of his daughter, Elizabeth (Anita Briem), that she saw a large furry creature leaping out of the window, but Dylan knows that this means a werewolf. He doesn’t want to get involved, but soon his assistant, Marcus (Sam Huntington), is killed by a flesh-eating zombie. Luckily, his condition turns out to be manageable.

A scrap of fur on a tree branch outside Elizabeth’s house leads him to one of the local werewolf clans, with whose patriarch, Gabriel (Peter Stormare), Dylan has some history. An attack at Elizabeth’s house leads him to a club run by the local vampires — led by Vargas (Taye Diggs) — with whom he also has history. Everyone, it seems, wants Dylan dead, or at least out of the way enough for them to fight over the artifact in peace.

Now, the choice to go with noir-comedy instead of the more serious, psychological tone of Sclavi’s original works makes for a huge disconnect from expectations for fans of that series. And I can definitely sympathize with the argument that it should really just have had a different name in the first place rather than riding on the original’s coattails. It’s unfortunate that this sort of radically reimagined adaptation seems endemic to comic book movies these days. And yet it seems unfair to let this single fact torpedo the assessment of the entire movie.

So let’s take the movie on its own merits. The dialogue is pure cornball clichĂ©, and the actors throw themselves into it with aplomb. It’s a silly, fun little movie; the whole cast has their silly fun with it; and that’s what makes it such fun to watch. Diggs makes for a charmingly megalomaniacal vampire capo, and Stormare is nicely menacing. Routh has a solidly understated deadpan delivery, which anchors all the craziness going on around him. And Huntington is hilarious in his side plot, coming to terms with his new life — or lack thereof — as a zombie.

It’s not the first time that I’ve said this, but it still needs to be repeated: is this a good movie? not by any stretch of the imagination. What it is is a fun movie. If nothing else it takes the vampire-and-werewolf genre back from soulful sparkles and soap operas and returns it to comparatively low-budget monster movies where they belong.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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