Odd Thomas (2013)
I can be a verbose writer. Very wordy, going off on tangents and generally sprawling myself out like a walrus hogging the whole couch and making you kids sit on the floor. Sometimes, concise is better.
Especially when there’s not much to say about a subject. Take this movie I’m writing about now, ODD THOMAS, a film adaptation of the book by Dean Koontz. First published in 2003, the book, about a twenty-year-old short-order cook named Odd Thomas who can see the dead as well as other supernatural creatures, went on to become a New York Times Bestseller and spawn five sequels, three graphic-novel prequels, and finally a movie adaptation, written and directed by Stephen Sommers (THE MUMMY movies, and VAN HELSING). I’ve not read any of the books, so I’ll let others comment on how faithful the movie adaptation was.
The movie is certainly concise, immediately opening with a bang, as we meet the eponymous character (Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekov in the new STAR TREK movies), and hear his voiceover narration as he leaves his apartment, sees a mute woman staring at him, and he follows her to a man in a car. The voiceover tells us that she’s a dead girl – the dead can’t talk – and that they gravitate towards the psychic Odd, needing his help, usually to solve their own murders. As Odd himself narrates, “I see dead people. But then by God I do something about it.”, a bit like combining THE SIXTH SENSE with a Steven Seagal movie.
Odd secretly helps out in solving these type of crimes, his powers known only to the Chief of Police (Willem Dafoe) and his lifelong best friend/girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin, from TV’s ZERO HOUR), one of those spunky girls you only see in the movies whose sole emotions are Quirky, Supportive, and Quirkily Supportive. Because of the whole supernatural complications, Odd tries to lead an otherwise ordinary life as a short order cook in his small town. But then things get troubling with the arrival of a stranger he nicknames Fungus Bob (Shuler Hensley, who played Frankenstein’s Monster in Sommers’ VAN HELSING). And he’s not just troubled because of Bob’s amazing hair, but because Bob is being followed by a Bodach.
Bodachs are invisible, intangible creatures who feed on death and fear and horror and other icky stuff, and like to hand people or places where these things are happening or are going to happen. Odd can see them – but then he has to be careful, because if they realise that he can, then they will make an effort to kill him to keep him from stopping the imminent calamity and letting them feed. These scenes are actually the tensest part of the movie, when he has to act as if he can’t see them swarming around him.
But it gets harder for Odd when more Bodachs starter appearing around Fungus Bob, first a few, then dozens, and finally hundreds are in town like teen girls at a One Direction concert, and it looks like Bob is going to be involved in something major big, and major bad. But can Odd learn what it is before it’s too late?
ODD THOMAS isn’t bad, certainly not as bad as many critics made out when it was first released. Yelchin and Timlin are likeable enough leads, Dafoe remains strong support, the effects aren’t bad (the Bodachs look like giant transparent parasites), and there’s a trace of humour running through it. But the main problem I have with it is that it plays like a pilot for a TV series. Seriously, as I was watching it, I could swear that this was made for television. And Sommers uses a set of jump cuts, slow downs and other effects like a first-time director rather than someone with a few good movies under his belt. The voiceover conveys a lot of information, much of it unnecessary to the finished product – we get a glimpse of Odd’s mother, who may have had psychic powers too before she was locked up in an asylum, but she’s never seen or mentioned or figures in the rest of the movie).
The TV movie feel also means that there’s no sense of foreboding or gravitas to it all- a potential massacre is going to take place, but it feels like it’s a race to make it to the high school cheerleading championships. And it remains depressingly predictable, the viewer guessing all along what are the red herrings, who are the real villains, how it’s all going to play out. Maybe that’s how it plays out in the source material, and I’ll give kudos to Sommers to being faithful to the novel, but it doesn’t make for very compelling viewing.
If ODD THOMAS is on the TV and there’s better on, watch it. Otherwise…
Director: Stephen Sommers (also screenplay)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy