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On The Set of Dead of Night
Walk like a Zombie in style.
By Kurt Amacker
July 23, 2009
Brandon Routh as Dylan Dog in Kevin Munroe's DEAD OF NIGHT(2010).
© Platinum Studios
Greetings, Maniacs. This is Kurt Amacker, your humble curmudgeon from Mania.com’s weekly alternative comics column, The No-Fly Zone. I’ve got a little something extra for you this week that I’ve been sitting on for a while now. With San Diego Comic-Con happening right now, the crew behind next year’s Dead of Night have started dolling out some awesome stuff to fans, including autographs with the cast and a sneak peek at some footage. Adapted the famous Italian horror comic by Tiziano Sclavi, Dylan Dog, Dead of Night stars Brandon Routh and Sam Hunnington (both from Superman Returns) and Anita Briem—recently in the wildly successful Journey to the Center of the Earth. In both the comic and the film, Dylan Dog is a private eye who investigates the supernatural, a la Kolchak. But, the film has reset an Italian horror comic that takes place in London in New Orleans, where I live. The production wrapped here a few months ago, but not before letting a cadre of web journalists on to the set for an all-access look at filming. And, those same journalists got to be zombies in the film. That’s right, Maniacs—I got to be a freaking zombie in Dead of Night.
What really surprised me about the production was the down-and-dirty approach to filming. The entire scene we were around for was set up in an abandoned power plant along the Mississippi River. It didn’t even need much in the way of set dressing, though there were some arcane symbols, skulls, and conspicuously placed candles around. We spent the first day with executive producer Randy Greenberg touring the set and meeting the cast and crew—including director Kevin Munroe and veteran produce Gil Adler, who directed the goddamn Cryptkeeper in HBO’s long-running Tales from the Crypt series—which we all really miss, by the way. He also produced a couple of other small flicks like Superman Returns, Constantine, and Valkyrie, but really—the Cryptkeeper! Hello, kiddies!
As I said, we got a great tour of the set on day one, including getting to meet and interact with the cast and crew. Hell, I sat in Sam Hunnington’s chair next to Brandon Routh for a while and chatted about New Orleans nightlife. The production really gave everyone a lot of freedom to move about the set, which made the whole thing more relaxed. There wasn’t as much of the oh-god-it’s-Superman thing when we were able to just kind of hang out. But, the real action happened on the second day, when they dragged me into a makeup chair and turned me into some kind of a hobo zombie that had to join a crowd of the undead in trying to grab Sam Hunnington, who was dangling from a rope. Hunnington plays Marcus (who replaces Felix from the comic as Dylan’s sidekick), and who starred as Jimmy Olsen alongside Routh in Superman Returns. The two have a great rapport onscreen, with Gil Adler saying “the chemistry between the two is just like Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis. It clicks in a comedic way, but also a heartwarming one.”
And, make no mistake: Sam Hunnington is very, very funny. As he dangled from a rope with Routh watching from the balcony above, we jumped and grabbed for his shoes as he cried, “I’m one of you! I can lead you!” Whenever Kevin Munroe yelled “Cut!” we all burst into laughter. Sadly, the production only needed us to grab at Sam for a few takes, but they weren’t quite done. A giant prosthetic creature dubbed “the tattoo zombie” gives Dylan and Marcus a hell of a time in the power plant, but we got to crowd over the camera lens for his first-person demise. You’ll see what I mean when the movie comes out next year. And, the tattoo zombie looks bloody amazing. While Dead of Night will certainly use some CGI, it also features a lot of old school makeup and prosthetics. I don’t care what anyone says, because when that stuff’s done right it looks just a little more real.
After losing the zombie rags and makeup—imagine a lot of alcohol wipes—the production treated us to a round of interviews with the cast and crew, including Brandon Routh. He talked about his experience playing Dylan Dog, who, in the film, is a former police officer working as a private eye. He described Dylan as being in kind of a funk, who comes out of it when he takes the case of Elizabeth—Anita Briem’s character—to find her sister, which leads Dylan into the supernatural underworld of New Orleans. Routh explained the balance of being faithful to the comic while still making the character palatable for a wider audience. “Dylan’s a little bit stronger and maybe a little bit more numb to outside forces,” he said. He also expounded on the decision to reset the film from London to New Orleans. “Ideally we wanted to shoot in New York, but we ended up in New Orleans. Coming here and seeing it—it’s the perfect fit. There’s so much culture and architecture—beautiful things and falling down buildings. There’s so much mysticism and magic and history.” Routh also talked about first learning about Dylan Dog years before from a friend, long before production on Dead of Night began. Of course, being the alt comics geek, I had to bother him about how faithful the movie would be to the comic—and what he thought adaptations owe to their source material. He took it in stride and said, “The sense of the characters and the overall tone of the script should resemble the sources material as much as possible. I believe that we have the human aspect of the undead from the Dylan Dog comic. There are small modifications, but I think it still speaks true to the comic.”
Look for Dead of Night to hit theaters next year, and keep your eyes peeled at San Diego Comic-Con for some more action. The official website for the film has gone active here. Check it out.
Kurt Amacker is the writer of The No-Fly Zone, Mania’s weekly alternative comics column. He is also the author of the comic miniseries Dead Souls, published by Seraphemera Books. Dead Souls is available from the Seraphemera Books website, Amazon.com, and at comic shops everywhere. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He isn’t usually dressed as a zombie.