Review: The limbs and crosses of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Based on the Italian comicbook series, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a fun detective story with plenty of monsters.

Dylan Dog is a private detective, but once upon a time he was much more. The undead living in New Orleans (a “mecca” for monsters) once had him as the impartial investigator into monster-on-monster crime in the city. That all ended when he found his fiancé murdered by vampires, and he found himself no longer capable of being impartial. 

When a pretty and mysterious girl’s father is murdered by a werewolf, Dylan is dragged back into the life he once left, reconnecting with old contacts in the underworld. He’s aided by his recently zombified assistant, who is simultaneously having to be taught the ways of the undead world.

The story does a good job of bringing the supernatural into a classically styled hard-boiled detective story, right down to the slightly grainy film, and the expositive voice-over. The plot however is a bit weak. Almost all of the turning points and revelations are easily predictable, and the resolution of the final conflict is overly passive, even for Dylan Dog – who is often somewhat passive in the comics, as well.

The tone, however, is spot on for most of the film. Dylan himself is played masterfully by past man of steel, Brandon Routh. His frame is perhaps a bit too buff for Dylan as presented in the comics, but this doesn’t take too much away from his performance. He presents the cool, nearly apathetic Dylan. We should expect to see more of Routh in leading roles in the coming years. 

At some points however, this finely hones atmosphere begins to crumble as silliness ensues. This is especially true in the ‘learning to be a zombie’ scenes sprinkled throughout the movie. The original Dylan Dog Comics to, of course have some comic relief, in the form of Dylan’s partner, Groucho – whom the film pays homage to with a brief glance of an old Marx Brothers promo poster -but in this case, the goofiness starts to breakdown the tone of the whole tale.

The story has a detailed mythology which is perhaps not as deep as one would hope. However, what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in sheer breadth. The city is filled to the brim with all manner of undead beasts (though applying the ‘undead’ label to werewolves has always been a pet peeve of mine). In fact, the city is so full of monsters in disguise that one starts to wonder, as Dylan himself does at one point, if there are any actual humans left in New Orleans. It seems that every where one turns is another piece of the city which is actually a haunt for the vampires, zombies, or werewolves.

The horror elements of the film are thankfully restricted to the grotesque and squeamish, and relatively tame examples, at that. The severed limbs all look like mannequin parts, and the film finds no occasion for nasty open wounds or sprays of blood. If the film had resorted to startling burst of monstrous light and sound at any point, the film would have been completely ruined. 

In the final accounting, the film has a fun hard-boiled style, and some well-crafted action scenes. If you can look past the boiler-plate monsters and shallow construction, you’ll have fun.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is in theatres this weekend.