The Spooktacular Eight #14: Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night (2010)

As they announced via a trailer early this month, we’re gonna have Bonelli, an italian comic books publishing house, give another crack of turning one of their decades long running series into a live action film, with the movie adaptation of Dampyr, a horror comic book series created in 2000 by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo about the supernatural adventures of the protagonist, a hybrid between a human and a vampire (so, yes, a “dhampir”), set to release very soon in theathers here.

Not only that, this is supposed to kickstart the Bonelli Cinematic Universe, and while to many non-italians readers this sounds like a cheap joke i’m making up…. it ain’t, and from a more marketing-oriented view, it makes sense, as now the time is ripe to give it a shot as audiences are familiar and used to superhero stories and stuff alike.

Still, it sounds hilarious to me to see them still trying to go this route, as if Universal itself tried and managed to cock it up not once, but twice, and in general very few players can do the MCU thing.

So it’s worth bringing back that the precedents aren’t exactly high in terms of inspiring any confidence or actual committment to any long term plan, as we saw Sergio Bonelli’s publishing house try it more than a decade ago with the live action adaptation of a far more famous italian horror-supernatural comic book series that will ring a bell even outside of Italy.

Yes, Tiziano Sclavi’s beloved Dylan Dog, and i’m not talking about Della Morte Dell’Amore/Cemetery Man, which while connected wasn’t a direct adaptation of the comic book series, but of Tiziano Sclavi’s omonymous book, which was written years in 1983 but published only in 1991, after Dylan Dog’s serialization, and pretty much was a “prototype” for the aforementioned comic book series, so there are some common elements, like Rupert Everett (after whom Dylan Dog’ looks where modeled) playing the main character in the movie adaptation, the supernatural horror themes, the romance and a string of delirious, unexplicable grotesque events.

But the movie adaptation in Della Morte Dell’Amore (“Of Love And Death”) came out in 1994, and again, it adapts the book and not really Sclavi’s Dylan Dog series, which is still running in Italy to this day, with various writers and artists carrying it, while Sclavi nowadays act more as a supervisor and rarely writes stories for the various volumes.

While Della Morte Dell’Amore remains an intriguing piece of italian horror cinema in its own right, – as i said earlier – we’re not talking about that today, but the 2010’s movie adaptation of Dylan Dog, directed by Kevin Munroe and starring Brandon Routh as Dylan Dog, simply called “Dylan Dog The Movie” or “Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night”.

It’s not the case of an italian production made with the american-international audiences in mind, but actually the opposite, as in it’s american production with an american cast (which includes Kurt Angle, not joking) that released the movie first in Italy, then the US markets.

And sadly it’s one of those adaptations, not only being shitty, but also blatant in how they cared about the name “Dylan Dog” and nothing else, as Dylan Dog Dead Of Night has a paranormal investigator/detective called “Dylan Dog” in it… and that is where it begins and ends being an adaptation of Tiziano Sclavi’s decade long opus.

The original comic book series features episodic stories about the paranormal investigator Dylan Dog, whom lives in a small flat in London and takes on weird supernatural cases, confronting anything from ghosts to werewolves, even psychopaths and serial killers, but has a surrealist and forward anti-borgeis rethoric that differentiates it, further enhanced by Dylan’s assistant, a Groucho Marx look-a-like, whom aids Dylan alongside Scotland Yard’s Inspector Bloch.

There’s more to it, but that the basic gist of the series.

Loose adaptations are common since outside of Italy (and Europe) the Dylan Dog name doesn’t mean much in terms of recognition, and guess what, this is another one of those that basically does whatever it wants, and what it wants its to be uber generic by lifting so many elements from other popular horror and supernatural series, and even diluting those to make it palatable to “everyone”.

You’ll get reminded of series like Underworld, Buffy, and so on, because it’s a fairly generic mish mash of supernatural action horror elements you’ve seen before, so in a way i think it’s fitting how the film does not try to adapt any specific story from the comic book but has an original plot.

Makes more sense since this simply isn’t Dylan Dog, despite carrying the name and having Brandon Routh dress up in Dylan’strademark get up, saying his catchphrase “Giuda Ballerino” (which its similar to the english expression “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat”, has the same overall meaning), just surface stuff and surface level references that will enrage fans most than anything else.

This is the typical “murican” adaptation of non-american material, as in those making it most likely just saw a cover of a Dylan Dog volume, to be generous, because the film itself makes it clear nobody involved actually knew anything of what the comic book series was like in any way. .

I’m quite familiar with the Dylan Dog comic book series, i am, but whatever, a typical non-italian moviegoer will quite likely have no knowledge of the source material.

Taken for what it is (not Dylan Dog in anything but the most surface elements possible), it’s still utterly generic and diluted, rechewed bolus of elements done better in more popular horror action series, and it has some notable problems, like an incredibly disappointing and laughably anti-climatic final fight that barely makes sense within its own context.

Leaving aside the overly cliched narrative structure in itself, with the “i don’t do that anymore, but by the end of the movie i will again” type of recalcitrant hero shtick, you can guess pretty much every “twist” easily, and boy, Dylan’s sidekick here, Marcus, embodies the annoying comedic relief character that you’d wish had their mouth sewn shut, Mudokon style.

Not that the other characters are much better, pretty stock as well, and the movie also being utterly forgettable to boot doesn’t help, so it ends up being tolerable of a watch, it has decent production values, but it’s plain subpar due to how generic and derivative it is, even disregarding the fact it really doesn’t represent the series it cribs the name for recognition/marketing value.

It sure is a movie that exists and can reasonably kill almost 2 hours of time without feeling slow, but even calling it just mediocre it’s an act of piety more than critique.

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