Blu-Ray Review: Odd Thomas (2013, Dir. Stephen Sommers)

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“That will be a long wait.
But I am a patient man.
And I have much to do.”

.

There were three reasons that inspired me to want to be a fiction writer—H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker and Dean R. Koontz. Even though I’ve put my fiction writing on hold for the past 2 years I still hold dear those novels and short stories I first read from those three authors way back in my late teens and early 20s.

To this day I can still remember the first time I discovered Dean Koontz. It was back in 1988 and at my favorite bookstore The Berkshire Bookshop. We had two bookstores in town back then, the other was the Bookend, sadly both have been out of business for decades now, but The Berkshire Bookshop was my favorite, for it was the most spacious.

Entering from the parking lot the horror/suspense novels were way over on the left wall while the magazines were way over on the right in the far corner. Those were the two spots I mostly frequented. Depending on the time of the month, I would enter, check for the new issue of Fangoria, then go all the way over to the other side to see what new horror novels had been acquired.

It was that simple, one word title that first caught my eye—Watchers, and then the farmhouse behind it and then that weird human clawed footprint. I took the book off the shelf and read the back:

From a top-secret government laboratory come two genetically altered life forms. One is a magnificent dog of astonishing intelligence. The other, a hybrid monster of a brutally violent nature. And both are on the loose. Bestselling author Dean R. Koontz presents his most terrifying, dramatic and moving novel: The explosive story of a man and a woman, caught in a relentless storm of mankind’s darkest creation…

Yup, that’s a hell of a sell, but I put the book back and continued to peruse the wall. Koontz’s books were actually set a little ways away from the “obvious” horror titles I normally looked at. His was down closer to the suspense novels, an area I never ventured that far into, but for some reason that day I was not satisfied with the selection the bookstore was offering me and walked a little farther down that I would have. Even as I went back and found a couple of books that were slightly as interesting as the Watchers plot I still couldn’t get it out of my mind. I eventually went back, snatched it of the shelf and bought it.

When I started reading I could not put it down.

The rest is history.

To date my current Koontz collection of novels looks like this: Watchers, Phantoms, Darkfall, Twilight Eyes, Strangers, Lightening, Midnight, The Bad Place, Coldfire, Hideaway, Dragon Tears, Winter Moon, Tick Tock, Sole Survivor, Fear Nothing and Seize The Night.

I have read only two books in my lifetime that actually frightened me. One of them was called Fear by R. Patrick Gates. The other was Koontz’s Phantoms. Sadly I stopped reading him a couple of decades ago when he started to focus mostly on suspense and not the supernatural/science run amok/Lovecraftian concepts he used to write about. I even remember when Odd Thomas was coming out and ignored it because I naturally thought it was just another story about some nutcase stalking/killing people. Had I known he had returned to the supernatural I would have read it, and now he’s got 6 novels already written about this Thomas character and a 7th on the way. As of this writing Saint Odd is scheduled for release in December.

Like Stephen King in the early years of his movie adaptations some of Koontz’s have also been lackluster versions. Phantoms (1998) sticks out. But I can kind of understand with that novel. Its about a shape-shifting creature with forms and scenes of destruction that are so insane any movie that would do it justice would probably cost an arm and a leg to make, so paring it down does kind of make sense. Despite the end result I still like the movie Dimension made from it. My only real gripe was the casting of Ben Affleck as the Sheriff. He’s way too young. The character in the novel was middle age and a seasoned officer of the law, if I’m recalling it correctly.

Also despite not having read Intensity (1997), I loved the mini-series adaptation and having read Sole Survivor (2000), and seeing some major differences made in that mini-series, I loved that one, too. I never read Whispers (1990), nor saw the movie, so I can’t comment on that one. But I did see the Roger Corman produced version of Watchers (1988), and again I liked it for the cheesy movie it was, but it bears little resemblance to Koontz’s novel and would love to see another filmmaker take another crack at it with an eye at making it more source material friendly.

One of things I have always admired about a Koontz novel is the plotting. Generally all them are structured like mysteries. At his best he shows you the weirdest, the most horrific, the most marvelous sights and not until you start getting near the end does he start putting them together and showing you what the story is really about.

Odd Thomas, the newest Koontz adaptation to make the leap to the “big screen,” is structured exactly like that. Anton Yelchin plays Odd and his voiceover in the beginning sets the groundwork for who is and what he does. Like Haley Joel Osment’s character in The Sixth Sense (1999) and Michael J. Fox’s in The Frighteners (1996), Thomas as the ability to see the dead. Except when he does the dead never speak to him. They interact with him but never with words. Most of the dead he sees are from murders and he’s taken it upon himself to avenge them by letting them lead him to their killers, which happens right after the opening credits.

He does not exact any kind of lethal back street justice; he simply confronts, lets the dice fall where they may, but with an eye on apprehension rather than meting out more death. From his interaction with the local sheriff (played by Willem Dafoe) afterwards we know exactly how those dice always fall. In fisticuffs. Which is why Thomas says he’s learned to take care of himself in fights.

But there’s something far worse Thomas has to deal with from time to time and they are called “bodachs,” incorporeal creatures (depicted rather nicely with CGI in the movie) that feed on death and fear and pain that results from violence. Only Thomas can see them and generally the rule of thumb is the more of them lurking about the bigger the violent act. They also attach themselves to the perpetrators of said acts and don’t leave until everyone who’s supposed to be dead is dead.

These things reminded me of the short-lived Showtime series Dead Like Me (2003-2004). In it there were these gremlin-like beings that caused people’s death.

Well, one day, while he’s at his short-order cook job, a very weird looking guy enters and takes a seat. Bodachs follow, more than he’s ever seen, hanging all over him and our mystery officially begins.

Who is this guy and when and where is he going to kill people?

Odd has to pretend they don’t exist for he’s learned if they know you can see them they will try to kill you, which is evident in a flashback conversation he had with this guy who said he saw them and gave one of the finger.

He was run over by a truck, the driver possessed by a bodach.

Aside from the Sheriff knowing Odd’s secret, he also has a girlfriend in the form of smoking hot actress, Addison Timlin, who also knows what he can do. This trio is the core of the movie as they try and figure out what massive violence this “Fungus Bob” is going to perpetrate.

If you’ve read the book you know the tragedy that happens at the end of the film. It was played to the hilt and convincingly acted and it made me teary eyed, bbut the movie was great and I can easily see myself watching this again and again, which is the number one criteria I have for adding a movie to my collection.

Doing a little investigating on the net I learned there were financial problems with this movie which is why we here in the US knew very little of this film’s existence. I knew nothing of it until seeing a trailer late last year. I also learned this is one of those very rare adaptations Dean Koontz actually liked and credits director Stephen Sommers for making that happen.

Odd Thomas finally hits DVD and Blu-ray from RLJ/Image Entertainment here in the US in a DVD/Blu-ray combo as well as a separate DVD release on March 25th. Sadly there isn’t one extra feature on the disc, not even a trailer. I would’ve loved to have seen a commentary and some behind-the-scenes featurettes, but given the problems the movie suffered I’m not surprised none were created.

The 1080p 2.35:1 high definition anamorphic transfer looks gorgeous. For audio you only get an English 5.1 DTS-MA track and with optional English subtitles only.

At least Image tried to spiffy it up by making a 3D slipcase, which I dug. It also comes with an insert showing all the Odd Thomas novels Koontz has written as well as a statement saying Saint Odd will be published in December. I heard that novel is going to be the last one.

At this stage it’s probably futile to hope that more of Koontz’s Odd Thomas gets adapted but that would all depend on how much money this DVD/Blu-ray release made. This was a fantastic movie and if you want those sequels, people, go out and buy this movie.

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