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We like to point to film adaptations of Stephen King novels/short stories as being prime examples of how difficult it is to translate the written page to the big screen but, if you think about it, none of the “old guard” horror authors have fared particularly well in Hollywood. King tends to be the most visible, due to the sheer number of his projects that have been filmed, but none of his peers have done much better. Peter Straub’s Ghost Story was turned into a decent slow-burner but the filmed version of Julia was kind of a mess. Clive Barker turned one of his best known shorts into the horror classic Hellraiser (1987) but follow-ups have been mixed bags, vacillating between so-so adaptations of Candyman (1992) and Lord of Illusions (1996) and unmitigated crap like Rawhead Rex (1986), Book of Blood (2009) and Dread (2009). And poor Dean Koontz…oh, Dean…

Of the established old-guard of horror writers, perhaps none have fared quite so poorly on the silver screen as Dean Koontz has. While King, Straub and Barker can at least claim a few successful adaptations of their best known work, there doesn’t seem to be much good that anyone can say about filmed versions of Koontz’s work. While Demon Seed (1977) may have functioned as a bit of histrionic, “so-bad-it’s-good” fluff, The Watchers (1988), The Servants of Twilight (1991), Hideaway (1995) and Phantoms (1998) all produced truly execrable films. In fact, Phantoms had the distinction of being one of the single worst films that I ever paid to see in a theater, as well as being one of the absolute worst films of 1988: quite an honor! Truth be told, I can’t really think of any filed adaptations of Koontz novels/stories that are anything better than “meh,” with most of them being dogfood. To this refuse pile, we can now add the smelly, bloated stupidity that is Odd Thomas (2013), a film that proudly continues the tradition of making unconditionally awful “product” out of Koontz’s decidedly low-brow page-turners. If anything, Odd Thomas is actually worse than most of the previous adaptations, resulting in something that’s akin to a Viceroy of Crap (nothing will ever unseat the howling, eye-gouging, terrible evil that is Phantoms, however, including that box of rocks Watchers).

As far as plot/story goes, consider this the drooling, inbred cousin to Peter Jackson’s far, far superior The Frighteners (1996) or a screwball retake on The Sixth Sense (1999), as envisioned by Pauly Shore. Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a short-order diner cook who also happens to be able to see dead people. He uses this ability to play “spiritual private eye,” as it were, or, as he eloquently puts it: “I may see dead people but by God…I do something about it!” Good for you, buddy. Odd has a spunky, pixie-girl girlfriend named Stormy (Addison Timlin), who’s basically a bored (and boring) Veronica Mars. He’s also got a long-suffering, overly patient police chief friend, Wyatt (Willem Dafoe), whose sole job is to sigh, shake his head and follow Odd’s lead. What’s this all spell, ladies and gentlemen? Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun, of course!

Odd has a tendency to see Bodachs, which are basically oily, CGI-critters that swarm invisibly around people who are about to engage in big-time violence. One day, Odd sees the creatures massing around a particularly strange customer, by the name of Fungus Bob (Shuler Hensley), a guy who looks like an unholy fusion of Tom Waits and Men in Black-era Vincent D’Onofrio. Since there are so many of the Bodachs hanging about, Odd figures that Fungus Bob must be one massively bad dude, maybe the baddest dude ever (so now the film is also ripping off The Prophecy (1995), which is miles better than anything found here). In order to prevent whatever tragedy is looming, as well as adding another notch to his “spiritual private detective” punch-card, Odd sets out to uncover the truth about Fungus Bob, with Stormy and Chief Wyatt in tow. Along the way, he’ll experience massive amounts of dramatic slo-mo, more CGI creations than you’re likely to see in an After Effects demo and a convoluted conspiracy that only goes undetected because it makes no sense whatsoever and the audience is provided with no clues to help figure it out along the way. Lucky for the main characters that they’ve read the script, otherwise they would be just as lost as us. The whole thing culminates in a shopping mall set-piece that was musty a decade ago before finishing up with a “tragic” twist that anyone who hasn’t fallen asleep by the film’s final twenty minutes will have had to see coming from a mile away. On the plus side, the film ends with an absolutely gorgeous shot of the city’s lightscape at night: my recommendation would be to forward to the final minute or so, check the shot out and call it a day.

Odd Thomas is one massive pile of glossy, CGI-soaked, over-produced, brainless crap. The editing is overly showy and obnoxious, full of needless quick cuts and so much cheesy slo-mo that it seems like every third shot is tinkered with. The acting is serviceable, although non of the principals look like they’re having a good time. While I’m not the biggest fan of Yelchin, I really enjoyed his performance in Charlie Bartlett (2007) and found him decent in another half-dozen films. He’s pretty much a non-entity here, however, possessing zero charisma and not much pizzazz. Addison Timlin, as Stormy, is consistently obnoxious, one of those “quirky” characters who would be repeatedly stomped into the dust in the real world. Poor Dafoe just looks sleepy and defeated, his performance carrying all of the gravitas of someone fulfilling their end of a losing best.

That Odd Thomas is a giant CGI-fest should come as no surprise, seeing as how Stephen Sommers wrote and directed the film. Sommers is a guy who’s practically synonymous with big CGI flicks: his resume, after all, includes such cinematic majesty as Deep Rising (1998), The Mummy (1999), The Mummy Returns (2001), Van Helsing (2004) and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). What is surprising, however, is how lifeless and boring Odd Thomas is. Sommers previous films may be many things – loud, juvenile, silly, weightless, glossy, slapstick – but they’re rarely boring, zipping from one zany special effects moment to another mugging character actor. Perhaps his previous films benefited from more charismatic leads, like The Mummy’s Brendan Fraser or Van Helsing’s Hugh Jackman. Perhaps Sommers had little interest in the source material. Whatever the reason, Odd Thomas plays like a particularly deflated TV movie, something to have on in the background while you’re making dinner for the kids. The film looks (and plays) so flat that I have a hard time believing it ever played an actual movie theater, although it did, briefly, hit the festival circuit.

At the end of the day, Odd Thomas is a tax write-off, a cheap-looking “product” that seems to exist only to move digits from one column to the other. There’s no sense of love or craft here, whether from the cast or behind-the-scenes talent. If you want to see this kind of story done right, check out either The Frighteners or The Sixth Sense. If you want to see a better Sommers flick, check out The Mummy. If you just want to kill 90 minutes and a few brain cells…aw, fuck it…it’s not even really good for that. If you wanna kill some time and brain cells, go watch a Troma film. At least Uncle Lloyd and his merry band of pranksters know that they’re serving up steaming crap: Odd Thomas can’t be bothered to care one way or the other.

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