This is a comic book movie, though I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing that. I didn’t, though I did suspect it enough to look it up and find out, and sure enough, it’s based on the Dylan Dog series by Italian writer Tiziano Sclavi (honored in the flick by having a vampire named after him). The comic is set in London, despite being in Italian, and the main character is what’s known as L’indagatore dell’incubo, or Nightmare Investigator. Sounds much more exciting than a regular sort of investigator, doesn’t it? Well, more exciting in the sense of a lot scarier.
This is a comic book movie, though I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing that. I didn’t, though I did suspect it enough to look it up and find out, and sure enough, it’s based on the Dylan Dog series by Italian writer Tiziano Sclavi (honored in the flick by having a vampire named after him). The comic is set in London, despite being in Italian, and the main character is what’s known as L’indagatore dell’incubo, or Nightmare Investigator. Sounds much more exciting than a regular sort of investigator, doesn’t it? Well, more exciting in the sense of a lot scarier. I wouldn’t even want to investigate my own nightmares, let alone anyone else’s.
The movie’s different, though. Of course. The day any even remotely major studio adapts a comic book absolutely faithfully is the day I pass out as the credits start rolling. It’s set in New Orleans, first of all, and Dylan (Brandon Routh, the villainous Daniel Shaw from Chuck) has gotten out of the nightmare investigation business and now investigates divorce cases, like every other private eye out there. I was expecting a lot of awkward references to his rather unusual last name, but he only uses it once, and those letters are all but worn off of the door to his office/apartment. The monsters know him already, and just call him Dylan.
Faithful sidekick Marcus (Sam Huntington, Jimmy Olsen from Superman Returns) develops the pictures of their clients’ spouses’ infidelity and hints around that they need better cases so they can move out of their crumbling office/apartment. In the comic, the faithful sidekick is Groucho — a Groucho Marx impersonator who seems to have forgotten who he is, so he lives his part instead — but as it turns out, it’s still really hard to get the rights to Groucho’s image, etc., so they had to settle for a few more oblique Marx Brothers references instead.
Enter pretty female client Elizabeth (Anita Briem, the hapless guide from Journey to the Center of the Earth) in need of a certain type of private investigator. Here’s a hint: she isn’t married. Her father, however, has just been brutally murdered by a large, strong furry creature that’s vaguely human-shaped, so she’s a little upset. It probably doesn’t help that she lives in a house that looks like a mausoleum for dead stuffed animals.
Marcus wants the case, but Dylan doesn’t. Unfortunately, Marcus is promptly also brutally murdered, and since killing the best friend always means that the hero will persevere no matter what, the case must want Dylan. This brutal murder is done by a different large, strong, vaguely human-shaped thing. You know it’s different because it isn’t furry.
Marcus promptly comes back to life — sort of — and is now a zombie sidekick. (It sounds like I’m giving a lot away, but this is actually all really early on. I haven’t even touched the main plot about everyone searching for the mysterious Heart of Belail yet. Except now I have.) Marcus doesn’t have to feel lonely, though — turns out New Orleans is crawling with zombies, vampires and werewolves. Who knew?
Dylan knows, since he used to be the referee for all these groups. He called it investigating, but it was more like refereeing, I think. There’s a lot to referee — the chief of the vampires, Vargas (Taye Diggs, Grey’s Anatomy) is scheming to get his Truebloods (I guess that’s a True Blood reference, so apparently it’s easier to get that permission than Marx Brothers-related permission) to the top of the food chain. He also runs the Corpus House, an exclusive nightclub where people get high on vampire blood and dance in the hallway. At least it looks like a hallway.
The werewolves seem less uppity, but also scary, almost Mafia-esque. Gabriel (Peter Stormare, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), for instance, heads the Cysnos clan of werewolves. Cysnos is probably supposed to make any White Wolf Werewolf fans think of Crinos. At least that’s what it made me think of. Gabriel’s son, Wolfgang (former pro wrestler Kurt Angle), is the muscle. I thought Wolfgang was a joke nickname Dylan came up with, but turns out that’s really what he’s called.
Anyway, since Dylan quit his referee job under what might be called questionable circumstances, none of these beings like him much anymore. They disdainfully dismiss him as a “breather”. (The werewolves say that, also, though I’m pretty sure they breathe, too.) He spends a good part of his time flying through the air and slamming into walls and cars and other such solid objects, because some supernatural creature has thrown him or punched him really hard. He asks $250 per day plus expenses for boring but relatively safe divorce cases; yet he doesn’t seem to get paid for nightmare investigation at all. No wonder his office/apartment is crumbling.
I accidentally saw that at least one other reviewer panned this movie. Thankfully, I had already made up my mind what to rate it by then: three and a quarter out of five. So I’m not panning it. I think it may require a certain mindset to enjoy, really, so I imagine there’s a lot of panning going on. Granted, I thought some of the scenes with Marcus adjusting to zombiehood are just silly, but others did laugh, so maybe that was just me. But overall, it’s a fun little movie, despite some questionable special effects, and I predict a certain cult status for it. You can’t take it too seriously, but thankfully, neither did the filmmakers.