On February 13th 2014, in an attempt to bring “The best avant-garde horror to mainstream audiences in Canada,” Sinister Cinema presented a screening of Odd Thomas to 28 different theatres across the country.
Odd Thomas tells the story of Odd Thomas, a young adult with the ability to see and communicate with the recently deceased in order to avenge them. But Odd’s not-so-quiet life is about to change as he stumble over a major plot to bring hell on earth.
Based on the 2003 Dean Koontz novel by the same name, Odd Thomas, the first in a series of books (the fifth one was publish last year) is The Mummy director Stephen Sommers’ latest attempt in movie making. Hopefully for him, this cheesy and tacky film won’t be the one he is remembered for.
While witnessing the first minutes, where Odd (who is also the humble narrator of his misadventures) gives a brief explanation of his background while catching an unlikely killer, I realized that nothing was spared in this production to make this film as catchy and cool as possible. From the constant use of successive slow-motion\fast-motion action sequences to obvious over-acting, from poor comedic relief to questionable one-liners, the movie contains every ingredient needed to please a teenage crowd and become a future suburban classic like Bubba Ho-tep. In sum, it has everything: lots of action, comedy, horror and even a bit of romance…
So what could possibly go wrong then?
The answer is simple: a soul.
Watching Odd deal with a horde of demonic beings while serving fast food at the corner’s dinner, I slowly came to grasp that I was not laughing, nor thrilled nor touched by any scene at all… just barely entertained. Curiosity should keep me focused, but my attention began to drift to other subjects along the way.
Early in the movie I was slammed with a major made-for-TV feel, an effect that lasted longer than the screening. To render that emotion to perfection, the production even asked music composer John Swihart, who spent the last 5 years working mostly on TV shows, to score the film.
Most of the acting ranges from ok to poor, depending on the character. As for Anton Yelchin as Odd, I got the feeling he’s trying hard to bring the best out of a poorly written persona under what seems like bad directing choices. Odd is a strange character who suffers the same clichés as the new Spider Man. He’s the town freak, an outcast who everyone looks down on and insults… at least that’s what the audience is told. But instead, the audience witnesses something totally different: he’s witty, fast mouthed and cooler than ice. As if that weren’t enough, Odd fights like a MMA champion and is romantically involved with one of the town’s prettiest girl. So from any stand point, he’s the Man, the archetype of the most popular guy in town — exactly what the movie is telling the audience he’s not. All these contradictions makes it hard to attach to an over-the-top, cool character who cannot stop yanking out suave one-liners, even when alone. I tried hard to enjoy Yelchin’s performance… while not liking Odd at all. Luckily, the production managed to get a grip on Willem Dafoe who delivers a perfect job as the town’s friendly, open-minded detective Chief Wyatt Porter.
The book was adapted by the director himself, and the script suffers from the same problems as the direction. The twists and turns are badly served by lifeless writing and cheesy dialogues, making the whole thing less enjoyable than it could have been.
Fans of the genre won’t miss some striking resemblances with The Frighteners, a way more enjoyable Peter Jackson film released six years prior to Koontz’s novel. Far from his earlier adventure flicks, Odd Thomas lack the light, yet entertaining atmosphere Stephen Sommers successfully created in some of the previous B-material he was dealing with. With this latest installment, it is practically impossible to part away from the feeling he failed to deliver whatever he had in mind, whatever it was.
While the movie’s theatrical life began almost a year ago in horror festivals around the world, it never managed to reach a broad distribution until now, as Image Entertainment announced a theatrical release scheduled for the end of this month. Already on the shelves of some European countries’ video stores, bringing finally this slightly entertaining piece to American big screens instead of aiming for a straight to video release is a wonder. Especially when the movie’s only shot at glory is to go for a low-profile new-rental debut before critics smash it. Overall, it felt poorly scripted, fake and soulless.
Odd Thomas opens for wider distribution in theatres of Canada on February 28th.