DVD Review: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Hi there…

Monsters. Undead creatures. Things from other worlds and dimensions. Each has held an appeal for me since childhood. At first they terrified me, but as I got older and started reading, writing, and playing roleplaying games, they became tools and fun thought experiments.

Add to that a healthy dose of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, War for the Oaks (by Emma Bull), and The Dresden Files books (by Jim Butcher) and you have a love for properties where creatures meet the modern world… These days it’s called “Urban Fantasy,” but in the past it was just horror, science fiction, or fantasy. Now with new urban fantasy titles coming out regularly, I have been in hog heaven…

Enter the 2011 film Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Based on an Italian comic book series from creator Tiziano Sclavi, the story seemed to bring a few genres together into a unique whole. Generally it takes the idea of a Sherlock Holmes or Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow-style, not the animated Disney version) investigator and gives him cases involving the supernatural world with vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Sounds right up my alley, doesn’t it?

Then, when it hit theaters, somehow none of my local theater chains were showing it. I thought that was a bit odd, but started to some very negative reviews coming out in the media, both online and in print. At that point I decided I would have to see it on DVD to figure out if the reviewers were right…

Unfortunately, they were. Dylan Dog is a movie set in a story-rich environment that somehow manages to be about characters I ultimately couldn’t bring myself to care about. How is that possible?

The story sounds good on paper. Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) is a private eye who used to deal exclusively with supernatural cases. But after the death of his girlfriend/fiancee/wife has fallen on bad times. He and his friend Marcus (Sam Huntington) have been doing cases for cheating husbands and wives, getting footage or pictures of folks in compromising positions.

When a new case comes up and it turns out to have a supernatural angle, Dylan tries to back out of it. But some cases can’t be turned away. After Marcus gets killed by a giant zombie, Dylan is forced to dive back into the world he thought he’d left behind.

All the elements are in the story. A Romeo and Juliet romance between a werewolf girl and a vampire boy. A family of werewolves protecting an artifact for centuries. A group of monster hunters threatening to destroy all unnatural creatures. And a vampire leader (Taye Diggs) taking advantage of a power vacuum with no oversight from inside or outside the supernatural community.

It’s not the location (New Orleans). It’s not the setting, because the world is full of monsters both fun and foul. It has some fun slapstick elements courtesy of Huntington’s role. Even the story seems good at first glance. So is it the actors or the director (Kevin Munroe) who are to blame? Either way it should have been much more fun to watch than it turned out to be.

Beyond the movie on the DVD, there are no extras. This is a very bare-bones DVD release for a movie that totally bombed at the box office.

If you really must see Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, I recommend a rental on Red Box. But if you were looking forward to this flick, you might be better off spending some time reading some of the Dresden Files novels from Jim Butcher or re-watching old Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: Deadline by Mira Grant

Hi all…

Zombies. Love them or hate them they seem to be everywhere these days. There are zombies in Jane Austen and Mark Twain books. There are books describing the aftermath of zombie infections and outbreaks across the globe (and how to deal with one if it’s happening now). And there are zombie flash mobs popping up in cities all over. I think they are here to stay. There are even zombie processes on computers!

But not all zombies are created equal. Sure Milla Jovovich, Jesse Eisenberg, and Simon Pegg have been fighting a variety of zombies over the last few years, but beyond a bit of excitement and comedy on screen, all the zombies are loosely based on the George Romero standard. Viral, shambling mounds of what used to be people now seeking the taste of live flesh.

And then there are zombies used in more recent fiction from authors Jonathan Maberry and Mira Grant. Sure the zombies are still there, but the story isn’t about them. It’s about us. It’s about folks using zombies to further their own agendas, whether it’s fear or political will they’re after doesn’t matter. The shambling dead or infected living are simply tools to be used to achieve an end.

To me, that’s scarier than any monster zombie Milla will ever fight on screen (though she still looks good doing it). Evil intent trumps blind rage nine times out of ten.

When I finished reading FEED by Mira Grant last year I was blown away. Zombies, blogging, and politics? What a powerful combination. Within the first few pages she captured my attention with a detailed, logical setting and characters I could identify with and root for. And at the end, I shed a tear or two. Emotional punch AND zombies AND amazing writing? Epic win!

As soon as I finished, I was excited to read the next book in the series — DEADLINE. Could Grant continue the story and keep her readers hooked? After finishing DEADLINE, this reader says “Hell yes!”

If you haven’t read FEED yet, there are spoilers ahead, so I’d encourage you to read it before you learn too much about the sequel.

Sure, Shaun Mason survived the devastation that occurred about a year ago. His sister Georgia didn’t. Neither did several of his friends and coworkers. But every day is a struggle. And though his sister is gone physically, she has moved into his head to help him figure things out when he needs her.

Crazy? Sure. But having dealt with the death of a good friend, I can identify with moments where you swear you can hear that voice as clear as if the person was sitting right next to you. Shaun talks out loud to his sister and his coworkers and friends think he’s lost it, but know (or hope) he’ll work through it eventually.

When Dr. Kelly Connolly shows up at Shaun’s home and the headquarters for their blogging empire for “After the End Times” in Oakland, he knows it’s not a good sign. The more Kelly talks about what happened at the CDC, the more that feeling grows. And the more people try to kill him and his friends as they ferret out the truth, he knows he has to get to the bottom of it. Ultimately the truth about who was behind his sister’s death is the only thing that matters.

Grant takes the political intrigue of FEED and ratchets it up to 11 to a stunning conclusion in DEADLINE. And we can only hope that the next book of the trilogy – BLACKOUT – serves to answer some of the questions asked in the first two books. The only bad part is we have to wait a while for those answers when BLACKOUT is released in May 2012. I’m not sure I can wait another year!!

For more information about author Mira Grant, check out her website at MiraGrant.com. Or check out my review of FEED here.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these great books at Barnes & Noble!

DVD Review: Forget Me Not

Hi all!

As I get older, I realize more and more that my memory works in odd ways. For example, I’m great with faces but have to work at remembering names. I can remember song lyrics and melodies for years and years, but sometimes can’t remember why I came into a room… You know, the usual tricks memory plays with age.

The new film – Forget Me Not from Phase 4 Films – plays on some of those tricks of memory in an interesting combination of elements from the Final Destination series, The Ring, and I Know What You Did Last Summer. It’s a throwback in some respects to the older slasher movies where you have a group of clueless teenagers who end up paying a horrible price for something they may or may not have done in the first place.

Sandy Channing (Carly Schroeder from TV’s Lizzie McGuire, Law & Order: SVU, Ghost Whisperer) is graduating from high school with her brother Eli (Cody Linley from TV’s Hannah Montana) and all the rest of her friends. They seem to be your typical high school group – sexed up and ready to drink until they forget that they’re moving on with the rest of their lives. At a graduation party, they play an old game from their childhood in a graveyard and unwittingly catch the eye of a vengeful spirit. Can Sandy figure out what’s going on before it’s too late and she’s lost all her friends in the spirit’s twisted game?

Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from Forget Me Not but was intrigued by the premise. As the film progresses, Sandy’s circle of friends continues to dwindle until… Never mind, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Let’s just say that once we got past the setup with this group of high school graduates ready to take on the world, things started moving nicely.

Considering that I haven’t paid much attention to many of the hip, young shows on the Disney Channel and in other places, I really didn’t know anybody in the cast. But I think all the actors had a chance to play their main role and then dress up in a scary mask once their character was taken out of the game, so that had to have been fun. I have to admit I was rooting for the “ghosts” in a few places just to see karma run its course… And it did, right up to the twist at the end.

Though the special effects were pretty basic, they were used pretty well. The shaking and fast-forwarded movement of the monsters always adds a nice touch. As more “ghosts” began appearing, the masks got a bit cheesy when seen close-up. The masks themselves seemed to be a combination of the Ice Cream Man from Legion with the expandable jaw and the creepy girl from The Ring. Definitely a combination that hadn’t been done before. And at a distance, the masks looked fine – especially in the dark – but in the light as things begin coming to a head, they get a bit unbelievable.

Beyond the film, there really weren’t any special features beyond a few deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a photo gallery. None of the deleted scenes really added anything to the film, so I can definitely see why they left them out. And the alternative ending just expands on what was actually in the film. I preferred the short version without the exposition that they used in the film. The photo gallery is simply a collection of stills from the film and the original trailer was included.

If you’re looking for a new horror movie that takes a lot of inspiration from earlier movies in the genre, you can do a lot worse than Forget Me Not. I found it to be a fun film with a slow reveal that pays off in the end. Forget Me Not will be available on DVD and VOD on May 24, 2011. Be sure to check it out!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other horror on DVD below!

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