Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (Blu-ray)
Directed by Kevin Munroe
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 108 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Review Date: July 23, 2011
Put together the laconic narration and hardboiled detection of Raymond Chandler, mix in elements of television’s True Blood and The Walking Dead, and you’ve got the recipe for Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, a near-camp style supernatural detective yarn that has some fun elements that don’t really add up to much of anything. Better suited to a television series assigned to the CW rather than a feature film (its conclusion suggests the filmmakers might like it to become the first of a series of paranormal mystery thrillers), Dylan Dog isn’t quite a dog, but it’s undoubtedly barking up the wrong tree if what it wants to be is first class entertainment.
Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) is now earning his living doing routine private investigation jobs in New Orleans, but he was once the protector for the various clans of vampires, werewolves, and zombies that populate the area. After wiping out the chief vampire hierarchy after his girl friend Cassandra was killed by blood suckers, Dylan was banished from that position and has become persona non gratia among all of the various supernatural tenants of the city. When Elizabeth’s (Anita Briem) father and Dylan’s assistant Marcus (Sam Huntington) are either killed or left for dead, Dylan assumes his old persona as a paranormal sleuth to find the perpetrator. It’s a circuitous investigation that finds Marcus turned into a very reluctant zombie, the new head vampire Vargas (Taye Diggs) being less than cordial, and werewolf chief Gabriel (Peter Stormare), once Dylan’s closest friend, now suspicious and unwilling to offer assistance.
Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Dean Donnelly’s screenplay tries to layer the humor they’re desperate to infuse in the script with the macabre other-worldliness and the wise-acre narration in much the style of the old television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, but they fail almost completely apart from the sometimes clever sidetrips with Sam Huntington’s Marcus as he slowly and grudgingly grows accustomed to his zombie mutation (but forcing us to attend a Zombies Anonymous meeting isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds like it might be). The mystery being investigated is certainly labyrinthine, but its ultimate solution is truly unsatisfying (and doesn’t seem to stay true to its own mythology), and with all of the monsters springing out at us at regular intervals, true fright is unfortunately never achieved. Part of that problem is the mediocre make-up jobs on most the vampires and werewolves, and when the ultimate monster Belial appears, you’ll know the creature creators have been studying Fantasia’s “Night on Bald Mountain” perhaps a bit too closely. Purists are not likely to appreciate all of the changes which have been perpetrated on the characters and settings through the Americanization of the tales from their original Italian origins by comic book master Tiziano Sclavi. For those unfamiliar with the original characters and settings, the changes won’t be nearly as bothersome; just the end result’s singular lack of style and finesse should pose the major problem most will have with the film.
Brandon Routh has the looks and physique for a leading man detective (though he might be a tad too handsome for the hard-boiled gumshoe he'd like to be playing), but the film throws away any sense of real world grounding when he is ratcheted off a second story landing and later tossed through four stories of scaffolding with minimal scratches (a small bruise on his face) and no broken bones but only a slight limp suggesting a sprained ankle. Sam Huntington steals all of his scenes as the motormouth Marcus who spends most of the movie in a state of perpetual disbelief and mortification even while lending valuable assistance to his boss and to the picture’s humor quotient which the piece is otherwise completely lacking. Anita Briem is a dull leading lady, and Taye Diggs gets to hide his good looks under a terrible set of fake teeth and ultimately pounds of make-up. Peter Stormare as the serious-minded werewolf chieftain and Kurt Angle as his muscular, hot-headed son make the most of their limited screen moments.
The film has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The video quality is most excellent throughout with sharpness quite acute and color saturation all it should be and never in danger of blooming in the movie’s plentiful reds. Flesh tones of the living have a nice, natural look while the zombies are as pale as one would expect. Only black levels never reach their maximum depths of inkiness. Otherwise, the transfer could have been considered reference. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track offers a balanced and effective sound palette though one might have expected a bit more use of the fronts and rears with surround sounds and panning across and through the soundfield for some extra immersion. Klaus Badelt’s music score isn’t particularly noteworthy, but it does get a nice spread through all available sound channels. (Beware, however, for the main menu’s background score which offers system-threatening levels of volume and very deep bass which literally shook the windows in the viewing room before I could make a selection. There are no problems with the volume levels of the feature itself)
There are no bonus features on the disc apart from promo trailers for Season of the Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Not terrible so much as disappointing and offering instead an opportunity missed for a new approach to a supernatural detective comedy-thriller, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night might offer a few laughs for a Saturday night rental. Otherwise, television offers much more compelling and imaginative supernatural series than this somewhat limp concoction.