For such a prolific and accessible writer, Dean Koontz has had remarkably little luck with movie adaptations of his work. Apart from 1977’s Demon Seed, which at least features a memorably insane rape-by-computer, virtually none of the films adapted from his work are worth even a halfhearted recommendation—though 1988’s Watchers somehow spawned three sequels, starring three different actors. Much of Koontz’s energy over the last decade has been focused on his Odd Thomas series—the sixth novel, Deeply Odd, came out last May—and no doubt his fans have been hoping it might inspire a successful franchise, or maybe just (please!) one halfway decent film. Unfortunately, the project was handed to Stephen Sommers, director of such overblown, tone-deaf behemoths as Van Helsing and G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra. Sommers’ typically hyperactive touch robs the material of most of its charm, placing way too much emphasis on Koontz’s goofy plot, and making Odd a bland paranormal cousin to Guy Ritchie’s ass-kicking Sherlock Holmes. The odds of seeing Anton Yelchin star in five or six more of these pictures are decidedly slim.
Narrating everything he does in voiceover for the benefit of complete idiots, à la Dexter, Odd Thomas (Yelchin), whose name is allegedly a birth-certificate typo for “Todd,” explains that he was born with the ability to see dead people, who seek him out in the hope of being avenged. He can also see creepy spectral presences called “bodachs,” which aren’t harmful themselves, but serve as a harbinger of impending violent death, to which they’re attracted. After seeing a strange individual he dubs Fungus Man (Shuler Hensley) being followed by an unprecedented number of bodachs, Odd surmises that the guy is planning a huge mass murder of some kind, but Odd has trouble convincing the local police chief (Willem Dafoe) that true evil has come to town, even though the chief knows his secret. With the moral support of his girlfriend and soulmate, Stormy (Addison Timlin), Odd investigates further, uncovering a plot that will potentially lay waste to a sizable percentage of the burg’s population—including, perhaps, Stormy herself.
Right from the outset, Sommers demonstrates zero trust that viewers will enjoy Odd as a character. He amps up the guy’s pursuit of a murderer with a wearying barrage of fast cuts, lunging camera moves, and over-the-top mayhem. Yelchin never really gets a chance to settle into a performance—even when he’s just working as a fry cook, he has to flip the food and cutlery around like a Benihana chef on speed. And Odd’s relationship with Stormy, which is meant to be the movie’s heart, comes across like calcified shtick. (Weirdly, a significant character from the book, Little Ozzie, is played by Patton Oswalt, but appears in exactly one short scene, to virtually no effect.) The bodachs are memorably nightmarish, resembling gelatinous muscle-masses, but eventually there are so many of them zipping around the screen that they become little more than low-budget CGI wallpaper. “I am a patient man,” Odd solemnly intones in voiceover at the movie’s end, “and I have much to do.” If he gets the chance, let’s hope it’s with a different filmmaker—one who isn’t terrified that the audience will fall asleep if it isn’t being constantly pummeled.