Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.
Directed by: Kevin Munroe
USA 2010
Horror, 108min
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

With myself as a reference point I’d say that genre fans are conformists and pessimists. We do not want anyone fucking around with our classic movies, we do not want updated adaptations of our favourite novels and books, and we most certainly do not want our favourite comics brought to life on the silver screen. Yeah, we will receive the announcements of most of the above with open arms and possibly even do a little happy jig when we first read about this or that being made – or remade – for the big screen… but before it’s out there we will turn sour and put up out guard, preparing ourselves for disappointment. That optimistic flams slowly simmers down to a pessimistic grudge… and it’s quite understandable too as most of “the above” do end up being bad movies, lifeless adaptations or complete changes of the content that drew us to the source to start with.

Kevin Munroe’s Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a movie that does – and will -separate the fans. On one side those who think it’s one of the worst movies ever made, and on the other’s those who take it for what it is. Then there are the fans in the camp I find myself… I want it the “project” to be good, but I’ve been let down so many times before that I kinda want to stay away from it… temptation – the bastard torture of all genre fans. Anyhow after sitting on my shelf for a few weeks, I finally popped the Dylan Dog: Dead of Night into the machine and I actually found it to be rather entertaining flick… heck even the wife stayed and watched it.
In response to the review I read just before watching the movie – well more of a rambling of non-topic words and bollocks, claiming, “We didn’t need another remake of Cemetery Man!” I’d really suggest that you get your head out of your megalomaniac ass and do some research instead. You are getting your characters mixed up, because there’s never been an adaptation of Tiziano Sclavi’s Dylan Dog previously… Francesco Dellamorte in Michele Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) 1994 is a completely different character just like Federico in Giancarlo Soldi’s Nero 1992, even if they all inhabit the same universe.

Although I would challenge anyone familiar with the comic to watch Dellamorte Dellamore and not think of Rupert Everett as Dylan Dog, being that he was the main inspiration for the cartoon characters look. For a long time this was the only “Dylan Dog-ish” movie we had, and therefore I can see why one would think of it as a Dylan Dog flick, hell even I do that. But now we have Kevin Munroe’s take on Sclavi’s source material and we have to move on from there… really we need to mates, it’s almost twenty years since that flick came out.

The movie takes a step away from the familiar world of the Sclavi comics – instead of living in London, Dylan Dog [Brandon Routh] lives in New Orleans, and a logic reason for this is given in the narrative, Groucho is missing, instead Dylan is assisted by a young geezer called Marcus [Sam Huntington] as the rights to Groucho Marx likeness. If you know the comics then this will not come as a surprise as even in the comic Groucho in between two issues shaved off his characteristic moustache and became Felix instead. Inspector Bloch is gone – although references to bonds to the police force “in a previous life” are given now and again, and even Dylan’s archenemy Dr. Xabaras is omitted from the movie. – although the two are seemingly tied into one character as Werewolf Clan leader Gabriel [Swede Peter Stormare making the usual weird performance one expects from him]. Instead we are introduced to a Dylan long after he’s resigned from being a “nightmare detective” and a plain old private dick sneaking around the bushes taking incriminating photographs to bust unfaithful husbands. When Elizabeth [Icelandic elf Anita Briem] approaches Dylan with a request to take on her case - the movies initial attack, which leaves her father slayed by werewolves – he declines at first and proclaims that he’s done with that part of his life. This is all motivated by a delicate subplot that runs through the movie and concerns Dylan’s past love Cassandra – and if you know your Dylan Dog, you know that he never ever get’s to keep the women of his life.
Things take a turn for the worse and Dylan’s mate, soon to be partner in the company Marcus, is also mutilated by a huge beast thing which becomes the incident that forces Dylan to accept the call, don the red shirt, black jacket and get back in the game. The fun and games can now begin, and the undead can crawl out of their secret lairs to fight the last battle of the world, as mankind knows it.

People I work with get uptight when they hear the word “voice over”. At some point in time someone has read, or heard most likely, that using voice over is a sign of failing with your storytelling, and this information has seeped down the line without any point of reference… so people avoid voiceover, under some pretentious banner, and then end up making programs that are even more incomprehensible. Sure, storytelling guru and Hollywood script Doctor Robert McKee says that you should avoid voice over as that is a sign of bad storytelling and poorly written script, but it’s not a law, it’s not a rule, and it’s definitely not a truth. How would you otherwise know who’s who in those introductions of characters and personalities in early Martin Scorsese movies - Mean Streets 1973, Taxi Driver 1976 and Goodfellas 1990], how would you know what was going on deep in the mind of Captain Benjamin L. Willard [Martin Sheen] in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now 1979, and how the hell would you know who William Holden’s Joe Gillis was and why he was face down in Nora Desmond’s [Gloria Swanson’s] swimming pool in the opening of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard 1950? Any tool is to your advantage if you use it in the right way!
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night uses voice over and it uses it in a playful way that is very reminiscent of the way Sclavi uses caption boxes – and thought bubbles - in the source material. At times they even tell of the events to come in the next scene, which gives a pretty interesting driving force to the action ahead. I liked this style and it works for the movie, and it also brings a modern film noir tone to the film. It’s also an effective way of skipping corners and rapidly building expectation.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a good enough movie, a fun and entertaining popcorn flick in the vain of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer - True Blood - Underworld serials and even something reminiscent of Tim Burton and Guillermo Del Toro’s horror fantasy flicks – you will know what I mean when you see the film. There’s a dark tone to the movie – Dylan Dog is a melancholic bastard in the comics and even so in the movie despite a few laughs here and there along the way. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a horror/comedy, Routh plays Dylan straight and stern, and Huntington’s Marcus brings the comedic relief as the quirky sidekick, but apart from that it’s horror all the way. The movie may lack the surrealism and brooding tone of the comics, but it holds a dark film noir style with a certain familiarity from the comics.

All in all I can’t really see why fans of Dellamorte Dellamore wouldn’t enjoy this outing. It’s certainly riddled with the same dark humour of that movie, and it’s filled with referents to the source – like the Groucho disguise photographs on Dylan’s wall, or the Marx Bros poster that hides his safe, Dylan’s clarinet and even the toy models that he’s building, also found in Dellamorte Dellamore. If you’d had put a young pre-plastic surgery Rupert Everett in the place of Brandon Routh, and had one of the Italian genre directors helm the movie I’m sure we would have praised it as a brilliant follow up to Dellamorte Dellamore… Perhaps Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is why Michele Soavi supposedly decided to have Francesco Dellamorte once again pick up his shovel and get back to work in what is rumoured to be a sequel to that nineties masterpiece of Italian genre cinema. Time will tell, and until then, I suggest you check out Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.

Kevin Munroe obviously know the source, respectfully making his own movie and going his own way. Which is a good thing, it may not be the most original movie, but Dylan Dog does come to life in a good way, the story is… well comic bookish, the effects are good, there’s a few decent scares in there and the movie does what it’s supposed to do. The movie looks top notch, the narrative rolls forth splendidly, it’s light on the gore, easy on the scares, never complicated, just fun and setting Dylan Dog against vampires, werewolves and zombies… well, what more could you ask for.

Widescreen 2.35:1

English dialogue, optional English for heard of hearing or Spanish subtitles

None, (bastards…)


Unknown said...

Dellamorte Dellamore is one of my favorites. I need to find this one.

Madame Enfer said...

I wanted to like this one - it sounded like fun. I even like Brandon Routh in the title role well enough (never seen him in anything else). But before I was half an hour in it felt like some rehash of True Blood. I suppose I'm bored with New Orleans setting (as done today - I love 1982 Cat People's use of the location), bored with clubbing vampires, bored with werewolf clans, and bored with the Americanization of foreign culture. Not that I mind them making an American movie, I'd just hoped it would be a little more original. I much prefer the original comics (from the small amount I've been able to get my hands on) and of course, Dellamorte Dellamore. Personally, I think this film needs far more than Everett (as great as he was as Francesco) and an Italian name on the title cards to save it.

P.S. Francesco Dellamorte may not be Dylan Dog per se, but he's apparently considered his Italian alter ego.

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