This review originally appeared on the Contact – Infinite Futures SF blog on July 15, 2014.
Odd Thomas is a 2013 film released on DVD earlier this year and based on a series of supernatural thrillers by New York Times best selling author Dean Koontz. I watched it the other day on Netflix because the trailers bore some resemblance to John Dies at the End, a 2012 film adaptation of the SF comedy horror book of the same name by Cracked writer David Wong.
John Dies at the End had a kind of ridiculous Beavis and Butthead meets Twilight Zone storyline, or as director Don Coscarelli said, “a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King.” But, I didn’t find anything light-hearted, clever or funny about the plodding, predictable plot of Odd Thomas, punctuated by pointless “witty banter” (I use air quotes here in sarcasm).
While the silvery, stringy antagonists of Odd Thomas seem like something out of science fiction, they’re not. They’re a unique take on demons, and the evil in the movie is blamed on Satanism, not science. Which made me wonder if Odd – with his special powers and savior status – was intentionally one letter away from “G-odd”?
I prefer sci-fi to supernatural, but what really bothers me about this movie is that every woman in the film is either scantily clad or providing sex, or both.
Even Viola (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a maternal figure raising two girls on her own, is wearing something that looks like she’s just a pair of melons in a string bag. When she’s not wearing Daisy Duke shorts or just underwear, Stormy’s shirt never covers her belly button.
I’m not a prude, and I don’t mind women wearing whatever they want to wear and feeling happy with their bodies. But these aren’t women wearing what they chose to wear. These are actresses wearing what was chosen for them. Every aspect of a movie production happens for a reason, and when juxtaposed with Odd’s conservative attire, it felt like blatant objectification.
The film takes place in a warm climate, but then why is Odd in a long-sleeved black shirt and long pants while cooking over a hot grill, on a bright sunny day? Willem Dafoe goes shirtless, but I wouldn’t say he’s enough to balance the cast of busty eye candy, in spite of his lothario role in The Night and the Moment.
From the spirit of a raped and murdered girl in the opening scene, to the girls (not boys) being raised by Viola, to Odd’s female friends, the females in the movie are not there to be equal agents, they are there to be helpless and in the sort of peril from which only Odd can possibly rescue them — though he fails to do so, more than once. When he doesn’t fail, of course, is when it’s his one MALE friend (Dafoe) on the line.
There is very truly a refrigerator in the movie, full of body parts, and I was surprised the dead women (yes, sorry, spoilers, there’s more than one) didn’t end up stuffed in it.
Odd Thomas seemed to be Ghost Whisperer for men, though not interesting enough to keep my husband from falling asleep halfway through. I think I would have been better off sleeping through it, too.
Have you seen Odd Thomas? Read the books? I think I might have appreciated it more if I’d read the books, because I might have cared about the characters or understood Odd’s fashion choices. But a movie really should stand on its own, shouldn’t it?
~ J.L. Hilton
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