Thursday, February 20, 2014

Guest Post: Dean Koontz at the Movies by Spencer Blohm

Dean Koontz at the Movies
by Spencer Blohm

If you’re familiar with Beth’s Book Reviews, odds are you’re familiar with the work of Dean Koontz, since both he and his writing have been discussed here many times in the past. However, this time the discussion is about Koontz and his work in a different medium. Fans of the author’s may be familiar with his best-selling Odd Thomas series, which revolves around a young man named Odd who can communicate with the dead and also see bodachs, demonic ghosts whose presence signals imminent death and suffering.

What many fans may not be aware of is that Odd Thomas has already been made into a film, and though production wrapped up in 2011/2012, it’s only just now being released. The film has been in the news for months due to the current legal fighting between the producers and financial benefactors, which has led to a complete marketing failure for the movie. The producers allege that the financiers never provided them with the agreed upon $35 million to help market, promote, and distribute the film. When the lawsuit hit, the film was stopped dead in its tracks and it suddenly became doubtful the film would ever see the light of day. Now, however, the film is available exclusively through DirecTV video on demand as well as their online streaming services (details here), with a DVD release date for this spring.

The drama surrounding this film is no doubt a disappointment for Koontz, who has yet to see any film adaptations of his books (there are 15 so far) become major hits. What made Odd Thomas such a promising film was the possibility of it evolving into a film franchise with multiple installments, since there are six books in the series, as well as the relatively large cult following the books have online. With other sci-fi and paranormal book series becoming massive international film hits, Hunger Games and the upcoming Divergent being prime examples, Koontz, no doubt, hoped for a similar response from his own fan base. For a while the film showed great promise: it had an attractive newcomer in the lead role (Anton Yelchin of Charlie Bartlett and Star Trek fame), some well-known names like Willem Dafoe and Patton Oswalt, a blockbuster director (The Mummy’s Stephen Sommers), and the supernatural element that all popular film series seem to have today. However, despite all its potential, the film looks like yet another flop for Koontz.

Koontz’s novels have been adapted to film since the late 70’s when Christopher Frank adapted his novel Shattered into the French film Les Passagers. Since then, many screenwriters have tried time and time again to adapt Koontz’s work into films. There have been big stars attached to his work, a few examples are Ben Affleck, Jeff Goldblum, Alicia Silverstone, Rose McGowan, and Julie Christie. But it appears no star power has been enough to draw in the crowds. The last theatrical adaptation of his work was in the 90’s, with the most recent adaptations of his work appearing in the realm of made for TV movies.

So, why can’t Koontz’s work draw in moviegoers? It might be his trademark genre crossing that make so many people enjoy his books, but uninterested in his films. Koontz is an author who isn’t bound to one specific genre. He’s able to mix action, horror, paranormal activity, science fiction, satire, mystery, and suspense. While these combinations make his novels edgy and difficult to put down, the extensive plot lines in his books are unable to properly unfold on screen. While a Koontz novel may take you days, weeks, or months to finish, a movie with the same storyline has less than two hours to do the same. This usually results in an almost schizophrenic plot line that leaves viewers confused.

He isn’t a romance writer like Danielle Steele or a legal thriller writer like John Grisham. What makes him such a great author, namely his ability to cross and combine genres, appears to be his downfall in films, and until a filmmaker is willing to take the time to create longer films (as has been done with other lengthy novels) it’s unlikely Koontz will see a novel properly handled on screen.


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