“When evil comes to town, he is the only one who can stop it.”
Directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring Anton Yelchin, Wilhem Dafoe and Addison Timlin
Odd (his actual name) Thomas (Yelchin) sees dead people, and feels that when he does he ought to do something about the circumstances of their deaths. He can also see the Bodach, angry spirits of chaos that feed on fear and death, and thus presage disaster by their presence. When hundreds of Bodach descend on Odd’s small town, he knows that a massacre is in the offing, and only he can prevent it.
Ably assisted by a police chief (Dafoe) and his girlfriend Stormy (Timlin), both of whom know about his powers, Odd sets out to track down the future perpetrators of a senseless atrocity before they can strike. Guided by visions and dreams and his ‘psychic magnetism’, an ability to find anyone just by random walking, he closes in on the killer, but seems always to be a few steps behind.
What’s wrong with it?
Stephen Sommers is a director who is at his best when restrained. Given his head he has a tendency to just throw ideas at the screen and see what sticks, and Odd Thomas is a concept that needs a more subtle handle and Sommers’ aversion to having nothing much happen for a few minutes to build tension or let the audience digest the latest plot point does no favours.
There are some tonal problems as well. It is possible to make a film that is both horrific and funny, but without the deftness of touch to make it work, the humour of Odd Thomas steals from the catharsis of the horror and the horror chokes some off of the laughs.
Far and away my main issue with the film is the fate of its female lead. Stormy Llewellyn is a strong, intelligent, forthright woman delightfully played by Timlin, who is show to be – despite her lack of powers – Odd’s equal in determination and conviction. She holds to the belief that life is a boot camp to prepare for some great venture in the next world, but when push comes to shove she dies falling, not doing. It’s a hell of a let down.
What’s right with it?
There are bits of Odd Thomas that work really well. The dry, quirky dialogue is often wonderful, and Yelchin and Timlin are highly appealing in the lead roles.
How bad is it really?
Odd Thomas is okay, it’s just a crying shame that it isn’t better. There are so any bits that are nearly very good, and the whole would be far more pleasing with just a few subtle shifts so that Stormy’s death wasn’t such a blatant fridging.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Wanting to disrupt a Bodach stalking Stormy, but not to alert it that he can see it, Odd blows a kiss not at her, but at the chief standing next to her, giving her a reason to reach out and ‘intercept’. It’s a lovely little moment and shows a kind of understanding and mutual effectiveness that is present right up until the end.
What’s up with…?
- Odd’s apparently superhuman prowess? He explains that he stays in good shape on account of the demands of vengeance, but seems more than merely human at times.
Production values – Pretty slick, especially for a limited budget, although the Bodach are a little too CG slick. 6
Dialogue and performances – Again, there are no problems here. It’s a good cast and the dialogue is quirky and wry. It even dodges most of the problems of exposition through the use of flashbacks and showing, not telling. 5
Plot and execution – The underlying plot is coherent enough, but there is a tonal uncertainty which makes for less-than smooth sailing. Uncertain if it is horror or comedy, it manages to convince as neither. 10
Randomness – The film does a good job of setting up the situation and managing its reveals. Odd’s capacity for physical action and punishment is a little out of place. 6
Waste of potential – I’ve not read the source novel, but there are just enough small and niggling problems that I feel there is a better movie there somewhere. 10