October Horrorshow: Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas is the anti-Cole Sear — he’s a youth untroubled by his ability to see dead people. Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a psychic hero for the comic book age of American cinema. He rolls with the punches with endless optimism. Without flinching, he uses his gifts for the betterment of the fictional desert town in which he lives, Pico Mundo. Like any good comic book hero, he has a support network of people who are aware of his gift, and its import. Thomas is a flawed human being, capable of very weird behavior, yet he is universally liked by all those who meet him. Were it not for all the murder happening in town, what a utopia it would be. Thomas is indeed odd, yet never shunned or avoided. He even has a hot girlfriend. Thomas’s life is almost annoyingly good for someone so strange, but, this is fiction, after all.

Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, Odd Thomas is an adaptation of Dean Koontz’s novel. In it, Thomas discovers, using his powers, that a deadly event will soon occur in town, and it’s up to him to stop it from happening. Aiding him in his efforts are his girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin), and the local chief of police, played by Willem Dafoe.

Thomas isn’t the only odd thing about this movie. Unlike most horror flicks, Odd Thomas mostly takes place by the light of day. The movie is pervaded with sunniness. In tone, it has much more in common with something like Kick-Ass, only with less violence. Thomas has created a bubble around himself with its own set of esoteric rules. He reigns supreme over this world, with everyone else, even his girlfriend, mere subjects. In that, Thomas is like any number of American teenagers.

Thomas is first clued-in to the coming danger when he begins to see translucent, demonic creatures called bodaks crawling all over the town. Regular folk are unaware of their presences. Thomas, although he can see them, has to make sure they don’t realize it, or his life will be in danger. Yet, in order to find out what is happening, he has to hang around the same spots they do. But this is no conundrum for the film’s hero, as he has no fear and little hesitation when it comes to saving lives.

Early on in this film, as a viewer is introduced to Thomas, I very nearly gave up and turned it off. At first, it felt like the film was a TV pilot; something made for, possibly, the CW. As a television show, it would have fit right in with their lineage, containing elements of both Supernatural and Reaper. Within five minutes of this film starting, Thomas is shown kicking ass, a learned skill to accompany his gifts. It’s an unnecessary add-on, but fits right in with Thomas being a misunderstood outcast, who is neither outcast nor misunderstood. He’s a teenage fantasy writ large, which makes the character wholly disingenuous. But, remember, this is fiction.

It doesn’t take long for Sommers to right the ship, thank goodness. When the bodaks make their first appearance, what was shaping up as a very tedious film suddenly becomes smart and interesting. The bubbly happiness can get a little grating, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a horror film that I was so interested in seeing through to denouement (note for the Loyal Seven: this review was written before I saw Oculus). In drawing so much more of its essence from teen dramas rather than horror, Odd Thomas’s plot becomes unpredictable. There’s a heavy reliance on lore that would probably serve a reader of the books well, but a virgin viewer won’t feel left behind.

Odd Thomas is a pleasant surprise in that a film this squishy is not supposed to be enjoyable for anyone over the age of three. Somehow, though, it works. Thomas is a character easy to root for. Not only does everyone except the bad guys like Thomas, he’s a little bit infectious out here in the real world. But only in small doses, I bet. If I knew this guy for a couple months in real life I’d probably want to snap his neck.