An adaptation of Tiziano Sclavi’s Italian horror comic series and a spinoff of Michele Soavi’s horror-romance Cemetery Man, Kevin Munroe’s Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is no stranger to obscure source material. Bringing former Man of Steel, Brandon Routh, back into a leading role, the film (penned by Thomas Dean Donnelley and Joshua Oppenheimer), is a B-quality noir, whose pulpy narrative and cheap aesthetic make it marketable to a very distinct demographic — namely thrill seekers searching for cheap, pulpy B-quality capers. In that, the picture doesn’t disappoint, however, much like many of the characters, it also lacks a pulse.
Opening at the Ryan Manor, Munroe spares no expense setting up the first of many plotlines; inside, Elizabeth (Anita Briem) finds her father mauled to death in his office. From the shadows, a werewolf appears, only to escape seconds later — showing no interest in the young woman. From here, we jump to the eponymous hero’s (Routh) headquarters, where he works as a private investigator, uncovering insurance fraud and cheating spouses. But his assistant, Marcus (Sam Huntington), who yearns to become Dog’s right-hand man, is tired of his boss’s reluctance to accept more exciting cases — lo and behold, Elizabeth decides to hire them to solve the predicament that is her father’s murder — bringing to light Dylan’s dark and mysterious past.
Just who is he? It turns out that Dylan was appointed to be the middleman between the living and the dead — as part of a pact made by the two entities (who reside side-by-side in secrecy), it’s Dog’s job to keep in line the vampires, zombies, demons, and beasts that roam the streets of New Orleans. But when his girlfriend, Cassandra (Laura Shipley), is killed by members of a vampire clan, Dylan is sent to the breaking point; in retaliation, he storms into their command post (which doubles as a night club), effortlessly gunning down the faction’s leaders — earning him the title of “monster hunter.”
This pained history comes back to haunt him when Vargas (Taye Diggs), a crime kingpin from the same vampire syndicate behind his lover’s death, begins to sell his race’s blood to humans (who use it as a recreational drug) whilst plotting a war against his undead brethren — Gabriel Cysnos’ (Peter Stormare) feared mob of werewolves involved in the murder of Elizabeth’s father, and a new breed of zombie that is found running rampant on the Louisiana home front. Now the question Dylan must answer (in his first post-retirement case) is: Are these crimes all interconnected or have the undead begun to rebel in the absence of a mediator?
Donnelly and Oppenheimer’s script for Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is full of refreshing characters ranging from: Big Al (Dan Braverman), who runs a body shop for the walking undead (where they could . . . well, buy replacement body parts), Gabriel, the pride-based mob-boss who runs a meat packing business on the side, and Marcus, who following a run-in with the previously mentioned à¼ber zombie, is killed and then reanimated as one of the undead and must become accustomed to his newfound condition. On paper, even the unnerving Dylan Dog is likeable, in spite of his schlocky monologues and one-liners.
But it becomes increasingly noticeable that Routh isn’t the man for the job; as the film’s hero and narrator, the actor struggles to balance the charisma and machismo needed for the role — oftentimes spewing already bland repartees with wishy-washy delivery. Briem is no better, and when the two characters begin to connect, their respective performers’ magnetism begins to wither. By happy chance, Huntington is the picture’s saving-grace; as the confused, cowardly sidekick, the actor’s charm makes seeing Marcus progress from loser to hero is rewarding.
Though the predictable storytelling and unnecessarily ignominious dialogue are what further dampen the ensemble cast of characters, it’s obvious what Munroe and his team of writers were trying to accomplish: A post-Grindhouse-era horror-comedy which embraces the movement’s iconic costume and set design, pop-culture references, and over-the-top attitude (in addition to providing the always-popular Hollywood romances and modern-day noir elements). All combined it is rare blend that, unfortunately, is poorly executed. For in order to have thrills, the picture must keep audience members on their toes, and for there to be a love-story, chemistry between the actors and actresses is necessary — Dylan Dog: Dead of Night has neither, making it dead as night.
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