Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dean Koontz's ODD THOMAS (2013)

If it is a given fact (and boy, is it) that Stephen King has had a woeful history with film adaptations of his horror novels, what do we make of the film fate of less famous contemporary horror authors? Have they faired better or worse than the ‘King’ of horror. Pretty much everyone knows King’s name but few members of the general public are aware of his bookstore shelf-mate Dean Koontz. Among horror readers he is well known if not particularly well admired as someone who has been incredibly prolific over the years but has never really been a great writer. Not that King is a ‘great’ writer either but he is reliable as a genre storyteller and one who almost always delivers the goods in a way that satisfies. I may bitch for the rest of my life about how many of his novels seem to choke in the final third, but overall he has given me enough thrills and excitement to coast on goodwill for decades.

Now, for Dean Koontz, I have to admit to having read only one of his novels years ago. It was during a period in which I wanted to branch out in the horror field sampling a number of writers and I met with a very hit and miss result. I was not impressed by Koontz or John Saul or Bently Little and so never read another of their books. On the other hand Robert McCammon, Ronald Kelly and John Farris drew me in and I have pursued their work ever since. This means I am certainly no expert on Mr. Koontz work but that shouldn't stop me from enjoying a good movie made from his stories, right?

But what is Koontz's track record with films made from his work? From what I can find he has had twelve of his books adapted and while I've not seen all of them the few I have viewed have been less than stellar. I liked DEMON SEED (1977) which had the distinction of being both insane and oddly compelling but WATCHERS (1988) I remember as being pretty damned awful- what little of it I can still dredge up from my VHS memory bank. And I never saw the sequels but just the knowledge of their existence means I will one day wonder about them. (Damn my desire to see crap!) I never saw WHISPERS (1990) or SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT (1991) but I did see HIDEAWAY (1995) and it was..... a movie. My memories are that it was OK but nothing too great. Maybe a revisit is in order? Oh! And I saw PHANTOMS (1998) because it starred Peter O'Toole and I figured it had be interesting if he was in it. Clearly I had forgotten that O'Toole was in SUPERGIRL (1984). Whew!

Skipping over the various TV movies of his books (because who cares) we come to 2013's Koontz adaptation ODD THOMAS. If I had known before pushing play on NetFlix that this sucker was directed by Stephen Sommers I would have skipped it completely. This is the same hack that farted out VAN HELSING (2004) and THE MUMMY (1999) so expecting quality filmmaking was off the table. And within the first few minutes my darkest fears were realized as I watched supposedly normal people engage in a running fistfight that would have killed any ten human beings. They tumble through outdoor parties, they run through houses and they break effortlessly through door after door as if they were made of notepaper. I was waiting for the super powers to be revealed but there are none! But that idiocy could have been winked at, I suppose, until the general plot becomes clear. It seems that the main character can see and communicate with dead people so he spends his off time tracking down killers. That would be fine except that he only does this in his small southwestern American town - but he speaks in the film's incessant voiceover about the dozens of killers he has helped the local police catch.  All of which means this place has more murderers per capita than any place on earth! What the hell? Plus, the film's tone is jokey and overly cute in a way that immediately puts me off so I was unimpressed from the start. Did I mention the annoying voiceover that is supposed to make us care about what is happening but only served to make me say "I get it" about fifteen times as the film unspooled. Ugh!

So, Stephen King has had by my count about a 40% good to 60% bad ratio in his adaptations but Dean Koontz has had one good one? Maybe one and a half depending on how you count HIDEAWAY? Am I being too harsh? Are there more good Koontz films I just haven't seen?

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