I love Dean Koontz. And it’s not for a belief that he’s a great talent (he’s not) or to be ironic (I swear, I’m not). It’s out of my enjoyment of things produced purely for pleasure — stories that may not be deep, well-written, or intelligent by any definition of the word, but are simply a really good time. Dean Koontz is fun; both in the ridiculousness of his writing, which reeks of “dad jokes”, and in the sheer absurdity of it. Like in, for example, Watchers, in which a story about a telepathic dog, a genetically altered mutant murder animal, and a spiritual soul-sucking hitman is derailed by a mundane love story between a sad man and a lonely lady. Or like in Odd Thomas, in which a man who can see the dead and interact with other dimensional creatures solves murders with his best friend, Ghost Elvis. Ironically, Ghost Elvis is the only aspect of the novel omitted from Stephen Sommers’ extremely true to its source material Odd Thomas adaptation.
The first tale of the Odd saga introduces Mr. Thomas and his powers: the ability to interact with the dead. He’s simply a short order grill cook, but he’s taken ownership of his gift and is trying his hardest to make the world a better place. When he stumbles into a dangerous mystery, hinting at the death of many residents in his town, Odd and the love of his life, his girlfriend Stormy, try to piece together what’s happening. The film stars the adorable Anton Yelchin, who appears tailor-made for the title character of Odd. Actress Addison Timlin is perfectly paired with Yelchin as the impossibly charming Stormy, with Willem Dafoe and comic Patton Oswalt popping up in supporting roles. With Santa Fe, New Mexico posing as Odd’s fictional Californian hometown of Pico Mundo, the atmosphere is just like you imagined it would from the character’s descriptions in the books — and although it is so obviously Santa Fe, I for one cannot complain about the opportunity to look at the gorgeous New Mexican location.
Directed, scripted, and produced by Stephen Sommers, the man behind The Mummy franchise, Odd Thomas feels like a passion project. He is clearly a fan, and demonstrates it with this treatment of the source. If you’re a fan of the novel, I’ll let you know right now: Sommers doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to depicting the devastation that accompanies Odd’s powers — as one may have feared he would have considering the medium and the director’s Hollywood tendencies. Odd Thomas is easily the most faithful Dean Koontz adaptation ever produced, complete with the too-cheesy-to-feel-natural dialogue, yet done in such a way that you not only accept it, but embrace it. It’s part of the fun. And this film offers a ton of fun, for fans and newcomers to the world of Odd.
The film is upbeat and fast-paced, despite feeling a bit disjointed from trying to cram too much into too little an amount of time. Certain set pieces that could benefit from some breathing room, but get suffocated by the pace, and too much character development is portrayed merely by Odd’s Koontzisms and quips. Still, the film is, like I said, really fun. And isn’t that all you need? Additionally, the special effects on this film are really good — easily too good for a direct to video release. These are the quality of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. The design of the Bodachs, an otherworldly breed of monster that clings to tragedy and death, is creepy and fantastic. They blend marvelously into the film, punctuating some of the best scenes. The sequences in which they get a chance to shine will make you truly disappointed this film only screened for midnight audiences and was then sent directly to home video.
I don’t want to talk about John Dies at the End too much, as I am a die-hard fan of that novel and could do so very easily. Odd Thomas is not affiliated with John Dies in any way whatsoever, but it feels as if there is a kinship between the two, formed simply by the similarity of their universes and their accidental supernaturally-powered protagonists. In a way, Odd Thomas resembles a mainstream friendly John Dies, but will certainly appeal to fans of that film and book as well.
Odd Thomas is available on VOD and was released on Blu-ray and DVD from RLJ Entertainment this week. If you’re looking for a great supernatural popcorn flick for the weekend, that is fun from the start and will shock you by the end, I highly recommend seeking this one out.