Despite a few recognizable faces (Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, a weird cameo from Patton Oswalt and a really really weird Arnold Vosloo appearance) and a budget big enough to fill the film with CG monster effects, Odd Thomas definitely feels like a VOD film. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The film's tone is a bit elusive, and the editing, especially early in the film, lacks comfortable rhythm, but there is a lot to like in this totally affable, somewhat adorable horror comedy.
Take some of the edge off of The Frighteners and tone down some of the hyperactivity from John Dies at the End, and you'll get some idea of what Stephen Sommers tries for in Odd Thomas. The film revolves around a nice young fella who runs his own diner during the day but works as a kind of supernatural detective during the night (and actually a lot of days - his restaurant must have weird hours).
Thomas (I just can't make myself refer to him as "Odd") has a series of superhero abilities. He can talk to the dead, he seems to be extremely gifted when it comes to handling cooking utensils, and he can see these airy monsters that hang around whenever something bad's about to happen. If they find out that he can see them, they will instantly kill him, so he has to pretend they don't exist as they glob all over his girlfriend's face and stuff like that.
Unlike a lot of similar protagonists, Thomas has the full support of those around him. His girlfriend, Stormy (a realistically beautiful Addison Timlin), knows what he's up to and goes along without the genre's expected incredulousness. Even more surprising, the local chief of police (a very light and jovial Willem Dafoe) has complete faith in Thomas' strange-sounding whims and treats all his instructions and recommendations seriously.
This sense of community, not the supernatural stuff, is what defines Odd Thomas and makes the film a cut above regular DTV fare (it will actually have a theatrical run starting February 28, but it still seems very much like a DTV film). We see so many films where the hero constantly must battle skeptics; it's refreshing to see one where everyone's already on the same team and no one wastes time with arguments. This is one of the reasons I've always loved the original The Blob. Rebellion is fun, but it's just as nice to see older authority figures trust a young person's wacko story out of hand like we see here.
The film has violence but it doesn't dwell on gore. It can show you a guy getting shot in the head or a refrigerator full of severed fingers yet somehow still feel charmingly chaste. I'm never a big fan of chirpy, casual narration used to explain dark supernatural stuff, but Odd Thomas uses the trope in a way that seems appropriate, though it did rankle me at first. Once the film got to Thomas' almost Stephen Chow-level kitchen antics, the tone kind of won me over.
I stopped reading Dean R. Koontz books a long time ago, so I have no idea how this holds up as an adaptation. The film definitely ends with a sense that this was just part one of a much larger story. But it also ends with Thomas removed from the many characters that help sell the film in the first place. While I certainly enjoyed my time in this universe while it lasted, Odd Thomas' lack of depth doesn't generate any eagerness to see what happens next.