Dean Koontz is cursed.
At least when it comes to film adaptations made from his many best-selling books. The guy has had a pretty hard run of it. Other than the excellent Demon Seed and a pretty well-reviewed French version of his novel Shattered, the movies based on Koontz's fiction have been pretty hit and miss. Mostly miss. If you don't believe me, then just try slogging through Servants of Twilight or Phantoms. I dares ya.
Koontz isn't shy about Hollywood bashing. Many an afterword in his novels deal with the various adventures Koontz has had in the film biz trying to get his work turned into respectable movies. These are some of the funniest stories you'll ever read. Koontz, for all his flowery language and obsession with mutants growing in tanks, can tell a hilarious "studio idiocy" tale better than anyone. And the fact that he either has the guts or just doesn't give a shit enough not to pull any punches is a bonus. The only downside is that names are never named. Drat.
So flash forward to 2012 when director Stephen Sommers tackles one of Koontz's most popular creations, Odd Thomas. Sommers, who directed The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing and (my condolences) G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, wrote the adaptation, co-produced the film and directed it as well. Clearly, he was in love with the material and the film has the feel of a personal project as it's much smaller in scope (and I'm sure budget) than the usual Sommers fare.
And it's pretty good. Odd Thomas tells the tale of a California fry cook who can not only see dead people, but works with them to solve whatever problem is keeping them stuck on earth. For example, in the opening scene, he's visited by a dead young girl who leads him to her murderer, which leads to a chase and all sorts of chaos.
Is Odd Thomas a great film? No. But it's a good one. Maybe even a really good one. I started watching it on a whim and found myself sucked in. The film moves, never slowing down for a moment. This is one of the flaws as sometimes it moves too fast and never takes enough of a breath to let you settle down and really get to know these people.
Sommers also piles on the digital effects and high-end transitions which add to the slickness, but robs some of the humanity.
But what Sommers did do was to perfectly capture the quirky tone of the book, no small feat. And while I'm not one for the over-use of CGI, the Bodachs are really well done, not just in design and execution, but in the way Sommers deploys them.
Odd Thomas is played by Anton Yelchin, who does a superior job. Addison Timlin is absolutely perfect as Odd's girlfriend and life partner Stormy, and we even get Willem Defoe as a long-suffering detective who knows about Odd's gift and does his best to utilize it while keeping it secret. The three leads absolutely nail it and watching them work is one of the real treats of this movie.
Koontz, who has been harder than anyone on the film versions of his work, was over the moon about Odd Thomas. In interviews and on his own website, the author gushes over everything from the script, to the CGI transitions, and especially the actors. He loves this movie, despite the hostile critical reaction to it.
For Koontz, who has so often been disappointed by movies based on his work, this was no doubt a big deal. Finally, someone actually understood his material and brought it to the big screen faithfully.
Did I say big screen?
Because here's where the curse comes in. Odd Thomas never reached the big screen. The film was caught up in legal wrangling between the producers and other entities that had promised funding for advertising and distribution and never had a proper theatrical release. The film vanished so completely that you can't even find it on Box Office Mojo, my favorite website for tracking box office performance.
It finally found a streaming outlet on Netflix and Amazon, which can only mean it lost a lot of money. None of this bodes well for an Odd Hours adaptation.
So Koontz finally gets what he wants, a film adaptation that he loves. Only few will ever see it.
Like I said. Cursed.