Dylan Dog: Dead of Night has vampires. It has werewolves. It has zombies and ancient prophecies and endless narration to boot. A monster mash and genre mash-up that leaves one pining for the swagger of Hellboy, it’s a comic book adaptation that feels primarily like fan service to those who not only already know the titular paranormal investigator, but are already convinced that he’s a ghoul-fighting badass.
Dylan (Brandon Routh) is trying to do the traditional private eye thing in New Orleans after losing a loved one to his last supernatural case. When approached by Elizabeth (Anita Briem) to find out who or what killed her father, he hesitates, but once his smart-aleck partner, Marcus (Sam Huntington), meets a similar end, Dylan is forced back into commission.
Director Kevin Munroe (TMNT) adheres to noir convention throughout, as Routh provides ample exposition in voice-over when characters aren’t already explaining everything in their dialogue exchanges. Naturally, there are blood feuds between vampires and werewolves; naturally, every vampire and werewolf that Dylan runs into refers vaguely to his troubled past. And while Routh certainly has the look to pull off this, his first leading role since 2006’s Superman Returns, his performance – much like everyone else’s – exudes little charisma, often limited to dejected looks, wry quips and the ability to draw a handgun on a creature of the night. Given his proven charms in Superman, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, it’s a shame that he isn’t given more to work with here.
Huntington, his Superman Returns sidekick, comes back to life in order to dole out sarcasm and skepticism at every turn, and just like Routh, he’s asked to play a type rather than a (pardon me) fleshed-out character. When we aren’t being subjected to the tedium of the central mystery, we’re offered corny comedic asides instead. Marcus doesn’t want to eat worms! Marcus walks in on Dylan and Elizabeth post-coitus! Marcus doesn’t like having his missing arm replaced with that of a darker stranger!
Even worse off is Briem, as vapid a love interest as they come. A bit better at working with scraps are Peter Stormare and Taye Diggs as the respective leaders of the werewolf and vampire; the former goes hammy, as expected, while the latter plays it cool in an unofficial reprise of Stephen Dorff’s role from Blade. There are marginally nifty concepts here (a body shop for cars doubling as a body shop for corpses, a werewolf clan running a meat packing plant, sunlight interrogation technique, but Munroe is often content with leap-frogging from one half-hearted what-if to the next with little regard for narrative momentum or excitement.
It feels like a hodge-podge of the aforementioned Hellboy and Blade, and let’s not leave out Buffy The Vampire Slayer now. Anyone with an affinity for the original Italian comic and/or practical monster make-up might be satisfied with this would-be franchise starter, but I’m afraid that, for poor Dylan Dog, his movie – much like his decaying sidekick – sorely needs a pulse.