Despite having some big names on board, and having the novel it is based on top the New York Times bestseller charts, distribution problems may mean it will be a while till you see Odd Thomas. Let’s hope the problems are resolved and it doesn’t go straight to DVD.

There are many reasons I’d like to see this film become a hit, not least because the book is fantastic, the author even more so. For those not accustomed to Dean Koontz, although he is generally categorised as a horror writer, his books are actually more esoteric, and often straddle various genres, such as thriller, crime, and fantasy.

And as well as being a great (and highly prolific) writer, Koontz is also pretty unique personally. Not that authors are known for trashing hotel rooms but Koontz is a loyal family man (having married his high school sweetheart), an animal lover (and patron of a dog charity), and extremely committed to his fans (of whom, as you’ve guessed, I am one).

Koontz’s characters often reflect his ideals and Odd Thomas is no exception. A witty, sweet-natured hero in the guise of a grill cook, Odd represents the good in humanity, hope in the face of evil. And he lives up to his name: Odd has the rare ability to commune with the dead (“I may see dead people but then, by God, I do something about it!”) and predict catastrophic events. He sees bodachs, which are attracted to the scent of evil humans and follow them like dung beetles to ordure.

In Odd’s first outing, he and a friend, Viola, have premonitions of mass murder. Viola, along with her two little girls, are just a few of the victims of bloodshed, a supposed shoot-out at the mall where Odd’s girlfriend, Bronwyn ‘Stormy’ Llewellyn, works. (Being Welsh, I’ve always loved her name.)

fungusA thundercloud of bodachs are on the prowl and they seem to be centering around a strange-looking character whom they name Fungus Man, indicating he will be the architect of operatic levels of violence and catastrophe. Odd relies on his ‘psychic magnetism’, or intuition, and with the help of his girlfriend and her father, the local sheriff, try to prevent tragedy before it happens.

The book is wry, sentimental, philosophical, with a delicate mix of humour and darkness, that rare beast, a heart-warming horror. The film is rather different in tone, however.

It opens with Odd following a pretty girl, a ghost, who leads him to her murderer. The scene has modern cowboy-style music backing it – a nice touch that suits Odd’s character. Yet what follows is straight out of teen-catnip superhero films like Kickass and Scott Pilgrim: the now-ubiquitous bright colours, attractive women, fast action sequences combined with intermittent slow-mo.

Koontz co-wrote the script with director Stephen Sommers, so I guess he approved this angle. While I can see Odd as the superhero trapped in a nerd’s body, I also think he’s a rarer entity than that and so deserved a rather more unique approach.

Odd gun-slings one-liners alongside his side-kick soul mate Stormy, who sashays into her first scene. And though I’m dying to love her, the novel’s chaste but sassy heroine is reduced to the archetypal Hollywood sexy girl-next-door type – what author Gillian Flynn calls the Cool Girl. The fantasy every man wants but who doesn’t exist and, to me, bears little resemblance to the strong image I had of Stormy from the books. I’m giving Koontz the benefit of the doubt here (although I have heard he believes Addison Timlin’s Stormy is spot-on and that women will warm to her), but the silver screen Stormy is an occasionally witty, tearful, child-hugging stereotype of a woman, all mini Daisy Dukes, or tiny pink knickers, teasing, flirting, oozing hot sensuality. In fact, all the women are sexy. The men, unsurprisingly, aren’t.

So, disappointingly, it’s not difficult to see who this film has squarely in its sights, which I believe is a great pity.

Odd’s syrupy sweetness is tempered by his wit and one thing Koontz and I agree on is that Anton Yelchin has him down to a tee. More geeky than good-looking, he is attractive to women because of his idiosyncracies, sense of humour, compassion, and intelligence. The film certainly captures this, as it does his loving relationship with Stormy, with both leads having great chemistry.

It includes the salient parts of the novel, though sadly slashes Ozzie’s part (sad, as he’s played by the brilliant Patton Oswalt) and literally cutting out the spectral Elvis to just a standee.

Odd may be syrupy but Fungus Man (who morphs into Fungus Bob, played fantastically by Shuler Hensley), has his own ‘syrup’, a fantastic hairpiece of blond ferret mixed with mouse (which truly deserved its own credit).

And Willem Dafoe’s Chief of Police Wyatt Porter is, as expected, superb.

As I wasn’t a huge fan of the teen-friendly imagery, and a hater of CGI monsters in general, I worried about the bodachs. Yet despite not being shadowy or creepy (or Gaelic) enough, they are reasonably well recreated, the liquid steel of the second Terminator, CGIed into Geiger’s aliens, all fluid evil.

And there are quite a few nice scenes, so that any horror is tempered by plenty of laughs (the audience lol-ed a lot during these moments). For instance, Odd’s exploration of “the gateway of hell” – aka Fungus Bob’s place  – where Odd is simultaneously looking at a fridge full of body parts while riffing comedy to Stormy down the phone.

And the laddish tone diminishes for the sentimental and touching ending, echoing the book far more in tone, which I was glad to see hadn’t totally been sacrificed.

Overall, I found this such a hard review to write as I am such a fan of Koontz’s, and I know that he loves the film so much, that I feel like I’m missing out on something, or simply have not seen the elephantine bodach in the room. I liked Odd Thomas but I expected (and wanted) to whole-heartedly love it.

Plus the film’s setbacks, including the distribution problems, make me root for it more.

So, even if you won’t be able to see it at the cinema, I recommend you at least rent it, so you can make up your own mind and hopefully feel the beating heart of a movie that lives up to the book. It deserves that at least.

 

About The Author

Rhian is a freelance journalist and editor living in London. A film fan for as long as she can remember, her tastes cover the entire spectrum of cinema.