Stars: Anton Yelchin, Ashley Sommers, Leonor Varela, Matthew Page, Casey Messer, Nico Tortorella, Willem Dafoe, Addison Timlin | Written and Directed by Stephen Sommers
Stephen Sommers, yes he of The Mummy, Van Helsing and G.I. Joe fame, abandons the big-budget blockbusters for a much smaller – yet just as high concept – film adapted from the bestselling book by Dean Koontz, the supernatural fantasy Odd Thomas.
The film follows the titular character who sees murdered dead people and feels it’s his duty to make the people responsible pay for their sins. Luckily the local police chief knows about his clairvoyant gifts and is happy to use him to keep the Californian town of Pico Mundo virtually crime free. But one day, in the diner where he works as a short order cook, Odd meets a suspicious-looking man followed by bodachs, shadowy spirit creatures who appear only during times of “extreme operatic violence and death”. Odd is convinced the man is connected to some terrible catastrophe that is about to occur in the sleepy town and decides to do all he can to stop the massacre at Green Moon Mall…
I’ll be honest, I haven’t read any of Koontz’s Odd Thomas novels, in fact I haven’t read much of his work since the mid-nineties. Surprisingly I have seen a lot of the filmic adaptations of his work, many of which were less than stellar – however the same cannot be said of Odd Thomas.
Led by Anton Yelchin, whose barnstorming performance as Odd rivals his show-stopping titular role in Charlie Bartlett (Yelchin also provides the films very noir-ish narration, as he did in that film), the movie is very reminiscent of last years John Dies at the End in so much as it perfectly mixes action, quirky humour and the supernatural in a film that will not appeal to everyone yet undoubtedly please fans of offbeat horror flicks. What also marks Odd Thomas out is the interplay between its two leads, Anton Yelchin and Ashley Sommers (as his girlfriend Stormy). The timing and witty banter they share makes them feel very much like an old married couple and it’s their connection and story that is central to the success of the film.
Apparently filmed on a budget of $27 million, Odd Thomas marks a huge departure from director Stephen Sommers more well-known oeuvre. In fact it harkens back to his earlier film, the low-budget but hugely enjoyable Deep Rising, in so much as it puts characters at the forefront of the story instead of special effects. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have some great special effects, in fact the bodachs are a particular delight – a meld of supernatural sinews and teeth that behave very much like the skulking Giger-designed Alien in Ridley Scott’s film of the same name. To see them crawl forth, swarming out of a hell gate is a fantastic sight to behold.
Much like the aforementioned John Dies at the End, Odd Thomas looks set for a rocky road to finding its audience, especially given the films $35 million marketing budget has been the subject of legal wrangles. But hopefully, like all good films do, audiences will find what I know to be, without a doubt, one of the best films I’ve seen all year.
With a hilarious cameo from The Mummy‘s Arnold Vosloo as one of the town’s many undead spirits, Odd Thomas screens at this years Film4 Frightfest on Monday 25th August at 3.35pm. I’d say its definitely one of the fest’s truly unmissable films.