TORONTO AFTER DARK 2013: A Review of Odd Thomas

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I think Anton Yelchin does just a fantastic job at winning hearts. That’s why he was great as the son in the TV show Huff and Fright Night (which has to be one of the more controversial remakes I’ve made in an opening statement to a film review). I was looking back over his career that started in 2000’s and figuring out just where I had seen him. Each movie he’s been in that I enjoyed, he was able to tie himself to me emotionally by being a soft spoken lion that would roar from beneath his quiet, nervous exterior to become a dominant acting for and a stronger a character. That brings us to 2013’s Odd Thomas, a movie featured at Toronto After Dark that is finally seeing a release after being stalled in some contractual/lender litigation.  It’s a great watch because Yelchin’s on fire, but it’s even better because of the twisted writing style of Dean Koontz and the adaptation that favors metaphysical relationships between characters that will force the audience into thinking mode and allow for a deeper viewing experience.

Synopsis from Future Films:

The dead don’t talk, but they do try to communicate with short-order cook Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Sometimes the silent souls who seek out Odd want justice. Occasionally their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time it’s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of dark, threatening forces who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn (Addison Timlin), and an unlikely community of allies, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil.

Trailer:

Alongside Yelchin, we find Willem Dafoe, Addison Timlin and Patton Oswalt all in strong, starring roles, cast appropriately and lending fire to an emotional saga. Dafoe is his standard rough but concerned role displaying a wide range of emotions with a single stare. It’s ultimately a romantic film with supernatural elements so you’ll fall in the love with the characters while trying to conceive of some of the strange space/time issues. That’s probably why this movie works. It doesn’t try to hard to play on the paranormal that it forgets that the best stories in science fiction are human stories. This isn’t exactly a question of morality as many new science fiction films tout. This is a story of fate and of consequence, synchronicity and the interaction of supernatural forces coming together to make or break human bonds. Odd Thomas accomplishes this by remaining a human story. It’s as if the supernatural elements of the pictures simply help to turn the page while the empathy that develops between viewer and Yelchin grows to allow for the proper suspense and tension.

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While I don’t want to spoil the film, the ending may be its downfall. It’s as if Odd Thomas spends so much time developing a beautiful tale of love, love that needs protecting and looking after that it had to find an ending to drop off the audience at the babysitter. I’m not saying that it’s an obvious ending or that you’ll see it coming, but it will not be the first time this plot device has been used and in this instance it does not stand up to the rest of the picture’s power.

The set pieces are vivid and look overall tone is dark, but hopeful though the hope is not necessarily realized. This is a thriller as described and a mystery but it is also a very personal story that follows a man through the perks and perils of having the ability to see things that simply haven’t happened yet. Director Stephen Sommers may have quite a few action movies under this belt having directed The Mummy and The Mummy Returns as well as Van Helsing and GI Joe The Rise of Cobra, but this strays from that pattern. While there are action pact moments, Odd Thomas is a more cerebral movie than we’ve seen from Sommers in the past. Though I question this picture’s $23 million dollar price tag having seen quite a lot done for far less from director’s in his league. I wonder if the film can hope to make its budget back.

While Odd Thomas may stand well on its own, it is important to remember that it is an adaptation of a Dean Koontz novel which means it has the backing of an excellent writer even if it the adaptation is a little off base. Koontz novels lend themselves well to films (remember The Watchers). While I haven’t read Odd Thomas, you can see Koontz hallmarks behind the characters and basic narrative.

I would strongly recommend getting out to see this if it screens near you. Odd Thomas is currently in festival mode, so no release or acquisition yet announced. Let’s hope the litigation doesn’t rear its head to impact the films’ release with any further delays.

-Dr. TERROR

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About Jimmy Terror

Dr. Jimmy Terror, more commonly known as James P. Harris, has been “writing your eyes” shut since 2010 with his horror themed blog, Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors (whose name is a play on words derived from the Amicus film, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors). In the early 2000’s he fronted the band The Vaudeville Vampires, a short-lived "Horrorabilly" band which saw the creation of a catalog of horror related songs before disbanding (with only one, six song demo ever being produced and distributed). He has had only one on screen appearance to date in the horror short, Ocean Parkway, as maniacal, gloved killer with a hair fetish. Having done some un-credited, behind the scenes work in some low budget genre pictures, he is currently working on his first foray into screenwriting with a demonic, retro gore entry that pays homage to Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento as well as other Italian masters of the genre.
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