Based on the Dean Koontz novel series of the same name, Odd Thomas is a short order cook in a small town in nowhere middle America who also happens to have the vision, or as he says; “I see dead people. But then, by God, I do something about it.”
Stephen Sommers first came on my radar with his Treat Williams starring heist/sea monster movie, Deep Rising. That film showed great promise from this new director and sure enough the future was bright. He followed Deep Rising with his The Mummy series, starring the then George of the Jungle Brendan Frasier. Although, to be fair, I knew Frasier from the more recent and far better film, Blast From The Past. Still Brendan wasn’t exactly a known quantity in the tentpole actioner so, The Mummy was riding on some really unproven shoulders. Luckily the vision was prescient and the audiences ate it up. The Mummy spawned numerous sequels and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s film career. The Scorpion King anyone? Yep.
Unfortunately, that was a sign of things to come. Just as the audience thought we had found our new favourite action/adventure director, Sommers brought us Van Helsing. Then followed that up with the mess that was the first G.I. JOE live action movie. Lucky for that franchise, Hasbro decided not to kill future projects, but Sommers did not return for a Joe sequel and really none of his projects got off the ground, until now.
With Odd Thomas, Sommers is back to the modestly budgeted genre film bringing along with that the visuals and storytelling to match the work we’d come to expect from him in the Deep Rising days. The source material is right up his alley too.
The character and world of Odd Thomas is part horror, part fantasy, all rolled in a confectionary of dark comedy. Actor Anton Yelchin (Abrams’ Star Trek,Fright Night) plays the title character with aplomb and does a great job of bringing the film’s namesake and world to life. Actress (and daughter of the director) Ashley Sommers plays Odd Thomas’ girlfriend and one of the few people who knows his secret. Speaking of his secret, I appreciate that this world is fairly realistic in its depiction of a character with special abilities in the sense that although Odd has only told a select few people about his power, many other characters we encounter have known him long enough that they’ve been able to put two and two together. It always erks me that many films like to suggest that a superhero could get away with keeping their secret identity from close and frequent associates.
Actor Willem Dafoe is cast as the sheriff of the town and frequent confidant of Odd Thomas. The sheriff knows Odd’s secret and has welcomed it with open arms, even going so far as to help cover up Odd’s talent when placed in a situation that may expose him. Dafoe looks very different physically from the book’s sheriff, but the roles are largely unchanged. We don’t see him much in the film, but his role is pivotal to the story progression and Dafoe does his best small-town-family-man. A welcome change to see him in a non-crazy or villain tone. The rest of the supporting cast include Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Leonor Varela, both do an equally decent job.
Bodach or Bust
The world of Odd Thomas involves the aforementioned dead people, but also the occasional horde of demonic gremlins called Bodachs. These creatures are presented to us as being a sort of supernatural weather vane. They’re not so much the main attraction as the precursor to the main mischief. The more there are, the bigger the event and the film’s main plot (as with the source material) involves Odd discovering the biggest contingent of the creatures that he’s ever witnessed. This propels him on a mission to save his small town of Pico Mundo from certain ruin.
Sans the bodachs, this small story could easily be described as a run of the mill young adult detective story, but the presence of these otherworldly aparitions makes for a welcome atmosphere of eery moments. There’s a great sequence that plays out to quite tense effect as Odd follows a suspect to his home that may or may not be sitting on a portal to hell. Although Odd is shown quite early on to be a kid who can take care of himself in a pinch, our first encounter with the Bodach’s tells us pretty quickly that he’d be no match at all if they ever chose to turn their ire on him. This makes the aforementioned sneaking scene that much more terrifying as there are literally swarms of the beasties living in the rather tight quarters of the house that Thomas finds himself in.
In the end, Odd Thomas is one of those small, unassuming films that kind of sneaks up on you. Taken in pieces, it’s nothing special, but together the sum of its parts leave a smile on ones face. Here’s to more Odd adventures.
B+ grade for direction
C+ grade for creature design
A+ grade for not being Van Helsing
Overall grade of B for a good director findings his way back to decent genre fare.
For fans of the books that are wondering… No, there is no Elvis. There are definitely changes to the way certain things play out, but in general the story sticks very close to the original Odd Thomas book.