Main cast: Brandon Routh (Dylan Dog), Anita Briem (Elizabeth Ryan), Sam Huntington (Marcus), Taye Diggs (Vargas), Kurt Angle (Wolfgang), Kent Jude Bernard (Slake), Mitchell Whitfield (Cecil), Michael Cotter (Phil), Laura Spencer (Zoe), James Hébert (Lorca), Peter Stormare (Gabriel), and Marco St John (Borelli)
Director: Kevin Munroe
Calling Dylan Dog: Dead of Night a horror film is not accurate as it’s not scary at all – unless you count Brandon Routh’s uncanny resemblance to the mannequin-ized André Toulon in Puppet Master II, and the terrifying realization that the mannequin is more life-like and capable of human emotions than Mr Walking Uncanny Valley here. The horror is all fake-looking CGI of werewolves and vampires that look like they belong to an early Resident Evil game. To call it a comedy is not quite correct as well as it’s not funny at all. To call it an action flick… well, there’s hardly any action here, and what action present here is the standard green screen, heavily edited, made-in-CGI stuff.
This is a shame as there is plenty of potential here, and Tiziano Sclavi’s comic of the same name has the potential to become a fun urban fantasy franchise. Alas, then someone thought it would be great to reunite two of the leads in that classic masterpiece, box office triumph Superman Returns, and commissioned a script by a duo whose last two films were as equally successful as that film. The director’s only previous directing gig was TMNT – yes, that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles full-length cartoon. The result is a bad Buffy the Vampire Slayer film – bad because it lacks the self-aware humor, good cast, and good story – but judging from the folks hired to make this thing, I think the brains behind this really want the whole thing to be dead on arrival. Maybe this is a money laundering thing? Who knows.
Set in a typical urban fantasy setting where spooks living openly but still hidden among humans, Dylan Dog was the appointed impartial human arbiter among the spooks when disputes, etc come up. That went well until his wife was murdered, and he took down the whole vampire council subsequently after he decided that they orchestrated the murder. Since then, he lives as a private investigator, et cetera, using his past as an excuse to be an outright douchebag to everyone around him, including his errand boy Marcus who just wants to be his partner and do more exciting things. Non-sexual exciting things, by the way – so don’t get your hopes up.
When he is asked by wealthy Elizabeth Ryan to investigate her father’s murder – she claims to have seen a white-furred monster flee the scene – he of course goes all ugh he has left that part of his life behind, talk to his hand, he’s too cool to care, et cetera. And then Marcus dies, apparently killed by the same thing that killed Elizabeth’s father, and then he decides to care. He ends up tangling with werewolves and vampires, while Marcus revives as a zombie and tries to adjust to life as one. Zombies here, by the way, are just like you and me except that they rot, need to get their body parts replaced with new ones now and then, and eat worms because consuming human flesh is considered illegal.
Brandon Routh is the biggest problem with this movie. I know, I’ve mocked Keanu Reeves in the past for his wooden acting, but holy crap, Mr Routh is a black hole where charisma and screen presence is concerned. His acting here is tree stump caliber, and his delivery of his lines are straight “I haven’t even seen the script, someone flash my lines on the teleprompter” tier of awfulness. When he is narrating about Marcus’s death, claiming that Marcus is his friend, or talking about his wife’s murder, he exhibits zero – nadda, zilch – emotion. You can argue that maybe he’s numbed by grief, but when he displays zero emotion throughout the movie, that argument rings hollow. Either botox injections have turned him into the Puppet Master, or he simply just can’t act. Add to the fact that his eyes are so unnatural large and apparently unblinking here, and he also has on a visible pancake-tier cake of make-up on his face at all times, and I don’t know why they bothered to pay this fellow to act. Just hire the guy that played the Puppet Master – that dude is likely cheaper and we all know he’s a better actor.
The script is a mess of predictable “twists” and boring, corny dialogues, and most of the “comedy” end up flat-lining or completely missing the mark. Still, that won’t be so bad if the lead actor had been a charismatic, entertaining lead, but those adjectives don’t exist in Mr Routh’s world. As a result, he cannot convey appropriately the deadpan humor or sarcasm that the script is trying to give his character. As a result, Dylan Dog comes off more like a first-grade asshole than an acerbic Sam Spade-type here.
Sam Huntington is lucky that he’s in a movie that has a leading man with all the range of a foot stool, because his overacting and constant “screaming is my comedy” routine would be even more grating under any other circumstances. Fortunately, he’s merely “OMG, STFU!” levels of annoying here. Peter Stormare camps it up too, but fortunately, his screen time isn’t so much. Campy doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but when the lead actor seems to have suffered a stroke sometime before filming begins, the campy acting only underscores how unwatchable that lead actor is. There isn’t much for Taye Diggs and Anita Briem to do here as their roles are so one-dimensional, but hey, at least they get paid, I suppose.
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night has some interesting ideas and concepts, but even then, these things aren’t anything that haven’t been done before many times already in urban fantasy media. The execution is a tragedy on every level, however, from horribly miscast leads to a leaden script to its lack of anything resembling entertainment. This is a shockingly dull film that wouldn’t be any different if someone replaced the main actor with a punching bag one-third into the film. Don’t bother with it – you’d have a better time choosing practically anything else to kill time on.