Odd Thomas (Blu-ray)
Image Entertainment / 2014 / 96 min / NR
The world of Odd Thomas is a skewed reality with a darkly madcap tone. The title character has the ability to see ghosts and invisible demons of foreboding danger. When he's not impressing the locals with his flapjack flipping, he freelances as a detective of sorts for murder investigations. It sounds like the perfect setup for a great TV series. So what the heck is it doing trying to be a rushed feature film?
Based on the book series Dean Koontz, the oddly named Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is admired by most of the town for his paranormal crime fighting abilities. The small town he occupies is about to be in grave danger as the spooky spirits known as Bodachs, who foreshadow doom, begin appearing in record number. Scary dreams involving faceless beings calling for their salvation offer up clues about the upcoming threat. Fearing the worst, Odd goes into full detective mode connecting the intricate pieces of the puzzle in a Dead Zone meets Twin Peaks manner.
All this could make a great paranormal detective series, but it just can't build all the necessary character and atmosphere when compressed into a 96 minute film. And in the manic hands of director Stephen Sommers, it especially doesn't work. The entire chain of events happen so quickly with the fast and stylized editing that we're never really given a chance to connect with the characters. It replaces any meaningful character development with goofy one-liners and Odd's wacky Blade Runner style narration. Sommers was clearly making a much different film than what may have been implied from the book.
Odd Thomas just wants to be a lot of things, but I never felt like it once got into its own groove. It wants to be a comedy, but the silly dialogue is too frequent and quirky to be funny. It wants to be a horror film, but all it really accomplishes is a handful of jump scares and gross moments. I got the feeling that Sommers was building up the film for an explosive action climax involving a mall massacre and a car bomb, but even that feels like too little rushed too quickly. The result is just a mess of comedy, crime, horror and drama elements that are constantly thrown at the screen hoping that some of it sticks.
I know this book series has a cult following and I'm sure they're an interesting read. But this movie adaptation seems like it's so desperate to cover the basics before the running time ends that it forgets to make newcomers feel welcomed into this world. I really did want to enjoy the antics of Odd as he makes mad dashes from clue to clue while slinging witty zingers. But how am I supposed to feel anything for the character when we don't really get to spend much time with him outside of exposition land? Sure, the paranormal mystery element is cool, but it doesn't mean a whole lot if we don't have developed characters to follow along for the ride. It's a pity too as I really dug the superb special effects and the trail of clues.
Image does a decent job at transferring the movie to DVD. The 2.35:1 widescreen is free of any major errors, low on the grain and high on the crispness. There are several special effects sequences for the video to shine such as the gateway to hell and the constant hounding of the Bordachs. The Dolby Digital 5.1 also gets plenty of showcase moments for all the explosions, gunshots and otherworldly sound effects.
The disc has no extras. At startup, the disc plays trailers for The Numbers Station and The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, which can be skipped with the chapter forward button and are not otherwise available once the disc loads.
Odd Thomas feels like a season-sized TV series trying to fit into a 96 minute movie. There's a lot that works for the film in terms of acting and dark comedic tones, but only in bits and pieces when it's not making a dash for the next bit of exposition. What could've been a pleasing and charismatic mystery involving ghosts and spirits is instead replaced with a messy action/drama hybrid. In other words, it's about what I expected from director Stephen Sommers. It's a decent rental if you're a fan of the books and just need to see certain chapters brought to life, but I can't exactly say it'll win over newcomers.