We reviewed the Realm of the Damned graphic novel a while ago, and as it happens I’m re-reading it as I go through a stack of Judge Dredd Megazine back-issues I’ve not had a chance to plough through for… erm… 18 months. It’s a great story, a nice violent metal-infused take on the “supernatural creatures have taken over the world” idea. There are secret cabals, religious nut-jobs and a hero who’s a bit of a bad apple. Also villains who are larger than life who wouldn’t look out of place described in Cannibal Corpse lyrics.
Shortly after the comic was released, there were rumblings of some kind of animated adaptation and it’s not taken that long to appear. Rather than go for a full fledged visual reimagining, animators Craig Hinde and Reece Saunders have taken original artist Pye Parr’s work and brought it to life. While I imagine this is cheaper than an all out fresh start, it’s also effective and keeps the spirit of the comic fully intact. Having said that, if someone came up with the budget to redo the whole thing in some kind of fully-rendered CGI which didn’t lose any of Parr’s brushstrokes I’d be all for it.
If you’re familiar with the kind of animation sometimes used for the old Doctor Who episodes where they’ve lost the video – or indeed the theme tune animation to Grange Hill back in the day! – then you’ll have an idea of how it works. If not, scroll down and check the trailer. In terms of audio, those who’ve listened to the likes of Big Finish’s Judge Dredd series will know what kind of acting to expect.
To bring a comic to life you don’t just need visuals, you need voices and with its heavy metal background the cast inevitably features familiar names from our dark corner of the world. Leading the way is Morbid Angel’s David Vincent, playing “hero” Van Helsing. Vincent’s gravelly tones are perfect and he’s done a surprisingly good job with this dour, downbeat character. Being a comic adaptation, a lot of his script is an internal monologue and he makes for a great narrator.
Jill Janus pops up as Vampire Commander Athena and also does a good job, coming across much as her stage persona does – forthright, tough, bitchy and not to be messed with. On odd occasions, there’s a little too much cheese in her delivery but this is a comic based on vampires and demons so it’s fair to let it slide. In fairness to her, this is usually a fault of the script itself which is very faithful to the comic book dialogue which could have perhaps been tweaked slightly to make it flow a little more naturally. It works fine for Van Helsing’s narration as mentioned before, but spoken dialogue is different.
The other major name involved in the cast is Dani Filth who’s been drafted into play major evil demon bad guy Balaur and La Bête (the Werewolf King). Voicewise, with the help of some effects, the latter comes across best with a nice, drooling, growling take on the character. However, given La Bête’s name and turns of Gallic phrase I’m surprised they didn’t pick someone with a naturally French accent. In addition, it’s not hard to spot that it’s the same voice actor doing both characters and I feel someone with a deeper tone would have suited Balaur better, or that at least some more effects could have been added to bring out a real demonic tone.
Steve Beatty of October File also lends his vocal cords as Vargas and is pretty good in a creepy, you want to slap him kind of way. In other words, he nails the character!
Of course, I’m over-analysing. Did I find them enjoyable? Yes – especially Vincent. Seriously, this guy should do audio books or computer game voiceovers as a sideline.
The final part of the puzzle includes the other audio – music and sound effects. The sound’s generally good throughout, working more like radio serial effects than those you’d come across in a motion picture. If I have to pick up on one error, it’s during the aeroplane section. The planes are clearly jets yet the foley artist has gone for a propellor sound. Oops.
The music, though, is very good indeed. With some nice incidental tones mixed with seriously good black metal belting out of the speakers during the fight scenes (courtesy of The Sons of Balaur, a group featuring in the story who were created in “real life” to release a soundtrack album), there’s no faulting it in any way.
Tenebris Deos is apparently the first part of a four part story. I’m hoping the second comic book comes out soon enough, and if they go down this animated path again then I’d happily give up a couple of hours of my time to watch it on DVD again (I’ve watched this one twice). It only runs for an hour, which makes it a nice bite-sized piece of escapism.