March 24, 2014 at 11:35 AM

Odd Thomas Visits the City Different

'It has been nearly three years since Odd Thomas came to town, and only this week will Santa Fe get a first look at him, and at itself.'

By Casey St. Charnez

Media Rare

Casey St. Charnez has been video editor for Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide since 1986 and buyer for Lisa Harris' Video Library since 1981. He likes Lisa, cats, crosswords, and the Metropolitan Opera, probably in that order.

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It has been nearly three years since Odd Thomas came to town, and only this week will Santa Fe get a first look at him, and at itself.

Produced by Fusion Films, Future Films, and The Sommers Company, the screen adaptation of supernatural suspense-meister Dean Koontz’s 2003 novel shot locally from May-June 2011…and then almost nothing happened.

The movie played a few film festivals, including Toronto, Paris, and Dublin, and opened internationally, in Belgium, the Philippines, and so forth, all in 2013. It didn’t hit U.S. screens until February 28, 2014, under the auspices of Image Entertainment. But the theatrical release was quite limited, so we didn’t see it.

Koontz, who has written another five books, and overseen two graphic novels featuring Odd--the reluctant detective for dead people--has not fared terribly well at the movies over the years.

Demon Seed (1977) with Julie Christie is the only semi-well-regarded title, while entries like Watchers (1988) with Corey Haim, Hideaway (1995) with Jeff Goldblum, andPhantoms (1998) with Peter O’Toole, are embarrassments on their stars’ filmographies. His movies made for TV—The Face of Fear (1990), Intensity (1997), Mr. Murder (1998), etc.--are pallid, best left ignored except by obsessed completists.

Not so Odd Thomas!

Last month, I was privileged to see an advance copy of the DVD, as I was assigned to review it for the upcoming 2015 Leonard Maltin Movie Guide. The Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Blu-Ray and DVD hit the stores this week, on Tuesday March 25, and I have to say, this is the movie Koontz fans have been waiting for.

I count myself among those fans, having long appreciated his signature tone of cold fear combined with dark humor. Watchers, in fact, about the genius dog Einstein, is one of my all-time favorite books (and like many of his titles, it’s on the shelf at the Santa Fe Public Libraries).

Before seeing the movie of Odd Thomas, I didn’t have much hope for itbased on his sad track record at the box office.

But, oh, was I wrong.

A faithful translation of the novel, it introduces Odd, whose nightmares and horrific visions alert him to the imminence of a mass murder getting ready to happen in his home town of “Pico Mundo” CA. Apocalypse is coming in just a few hours. Odd’s banterish narration sets the mood perfectly. Moreover, Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the Star Trekreboot) is an ideal Odd. So is Willem Dafoe, as a Police Chief who believes in him.

Santa Fe and its environs stand in handsomely for the California setting, and as it was shot in late spring and early summer, our town looks spectacularly verdant.

The production used a lot of recognizable locations. Prominent is the “Pico Mundo Café,” really the Plaza Café, closed at the time because of its kitchen fire, but briefly reopened as a movie set. Likewise, the company resuscitated the shuttered Silva Lanes to sub as “Green Moon Bowling,” and a refurbished room at the old St. Vincent’s Hospital, amidst its transformation into the Drury Hotel, was Odd’s abode. Out of town, the church in Rio en Medio became “St. Bart’s,” and Cottonwood Mall in Albuquerque was morphed into “Green Moon Mall.” There’s also a predictably spooky sequence in Old Main at the State Pen.

During its tenure here, we the film-buff citizenry were quite abuzz at the openness of the 2011 location shooting, and I think we all pretty much assumed that we’d be seeing it at the Regal Stadium 14 come the following fall or winter.

Alas, the company ran out of money, right in the middle of filming, a stunning development for writer-producer-director Stephen Sommers, whose Mummy movies in 1999 and 2001 were big money-makers for Universal, placing him in a position to do anything he wanted.

And he wanted to make Odd Thomas.

He thought he had the budget in place at the outset, but ran afoul of the Screen Actors Guild, faced a lawsuit, ran out of cash, and had to put the movie on hold while he regrouped and tightened his collective belt. When finished at last, two more obstacles remained, marketing and distribution, with little to no funding available for either.

So without getting a real life at the movies, this ended all hope for more films or a TV series, for which this movie would have served as a fine pilot. 

Odd Thomas languished, gathering dust on the shelf, until this week, when finally we’re going to see a) what a good Dean Koontz movie looks like and b) what a great-looking place we live in.          

Now if we only had a real Odd Thomas to protect us from those badass bodachs!

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