An estate appraiser heads out to the country to spend a few days at an old farm with the caretaker and his help to…well, appraise. It’s clear from the first day that there are secrets buried within the history of the property and slowly things surface that make the appraiser’s job a difficult and disturbing one.
I loved the idea of the innocent protagonist being an appraiser, as it gave a great reason for his snooping about in areas that otherwise would be too spooky to go. So rather than the audience growing frustrated at the idiot who insists on nosing about in those dark nooks and crannies that no one has any business going into, we are given a rationale behind it.
Aesthetically the film was pleasing, as was most of the acting, but three fourths into it things started heading downhill. I don’t think I quite rolled my eyes but I certainly could have. The acting turned south when a new character came out of nowhere who probably could have been left out altogether, followed by some very random scares that left me thinking there was no way the film could be redeemed at this point. It seemed that things were starting to happen for no apparent reason other than cheap scares, and questions rose that I didn’t think would ever get answered. It began to feel like a different writer/director took over, with the genesis of a good idea that ran on nothing but the fumes of jump scares (though some of which were genuinely creepy) and a protagonist who’s only real “suffering” was receiving a hearty blow to the head every twenty minutes–concussions on the regular.
But then the end came and it did indeed manage to pull itself together and answer almost every question I had. Overall the film was well made, some legitimately creepy scenes and perfect for that modern crowd who will get a kick out of jump scares. Just remember to wait it out. There’s a zinger of a twist hiding there that ultimately redeems most of anything you may consider inadequate.
Like most fans of the Evil Dead franchise, I’m one of those guys who cringed and glared suspiciously through skeptical eyes at the announcement of an Evil Dead TV series. I’m also one of those guys who feel that the original Evil Dead is far superior over its sequel as well as Army of Darkness, so when I was finally able to see for myself what Raimi, Campbell and company did with their baby, I was pleasantly surprised. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certainly a grin never left my face through the entire show.
A bit of history here: I’ve been an Evil Dead fan since about the age of 13. My mom rented it for me on a whim in the early 80s under the condition that I would babysit my sister and brother while her and my father went out on the town. She knew I loved horror movies and so judged the film by the cover, brought it home and presented it to me in a transparent case with no visuals to help feed my curiosity. Nevertheless, I wasn’t expecting the grueling terror I experienced that night. Since then, it has been the film I’ve seen the most. I know more about the making of this film than any other. And I’m a Michigan boy where the movie took place as well as a handful of it actually being filmed here—some only 10 minutes from me—so naturally I’m a bit of a fan boy.
Eventually I befriended the makeup FX artist, Mr. Tom Sullivan, who happens to be a local. He’s been to my house a few times for dinner and to hang out, lugging his props, paintings, and home movies of Campbell and Raimi’s old college indie films that most have never seen—all packed into a single VHS tape complete with a copy of “Within the Woods,” the short film made by Raimi, Campbell, and friends to raise money for the original Evil Dead.
As you can see, Evil Dead is very dear to me. Heck, I haven’t even bothered to watch the remake. I certainly wasn’t down with it being made. In my opinion, much of the charm of Evil Dead is in its amateur and experimental composition. From using cheap acrylic paints for makeup to jerry-rigged camera shots, it’s unique in every sense of the word and a movie that I feel will forever hold up on its own.
All that being said, I watched the entire 45-minute premiere episode of Ash Vs. Evil Dead under a microscope, making comparisons and looking for things not to like. This proved to be a rather difficult task indeed. Between the deadites, their voices, the sound effects, and particularly the camera work, there was no mistaking this was Raimi’s creation. The deadites looked and sounded like deadites, Bruce played Ash just how we’ve always loved him—in the middle of a heap of trouble, sprayed with blood, and clumsy as ever. Heck, Raimi even had Ash driving the original “classic” (Raimi’s Delta 88 that has made appearances in all his films, including the Spiderman trilogy), and when Bruce stripped off his work smock and you saw that blue denim-colored button-up shirt, you knew it was on! Ash was back, baby!
If I have anything bad to say about the show at all it’s that the blood was clearly CGI, to the point where I wonder if they even tried to hide that fact; and the second—and this could be because I’m biased—but I think it would have been great to see Tom Sullivan’s original sketches from the book of the dead incorporated into the show rather than someone else’s work.
Kudos to Raimi, Campbell, and Tapert for pulling this off and giving the fans something they all knew we’d love. I can now see why a second season has already been greenlit.
I have yet to see anyone say a bad thing about the premiere, and understandably so. Although Ash Vs. Evil Dead is not dark and gritty like the first Evil Dead, I felt like Raimi and the gang paid very close attention to what people loved about Evil Dead I and II, because every little nuance is there. I really cannot say enough positive things about the show; even my wife loved it. We sat, laughed, cringed, and were left wanting more. And as I turned off my television with a smile stuck to my face and a feeling of complete satisfaction, I knew it would be a long week ahead waiting for the second episode to air.
There are a few very good reasons why John Carpenter’s Halloween has made such an impact even three and a half decades later: The music, the mask, and the mute. No other film’s soundtrack is as recognizable or sets the mood as much as the one Carpenter himself composed for his swan song, Halloween. The subtleness of Michael Myer’s plain mask helps create a spook factor that has been replicated over and over since. Mix in a merciless, homicidal madman who never utters a word sporting said mask, and you get this emotionless enigma that can’t be reasoned with. If you’re in his line of sight, you’re dead. Plain and simple. No matter how fast you run, Michael can walk faster.
Rob Zombie took that enigmatic nature of Michael Myers that we all know and very much love and pinched a big steaming loaf on it. I tolerated his remake of the original Halloween. I was curious, and I’ll admit there was an interesting back story. But I never saw any reason for him to do a second, and after witnessing the pile of garbage that is Zombie’s Halloween 2, I understand it even less now. After sitting through it I felt like I needed to watch Carpenter’s Halloween 1 and 2 back to back while taking a long shower with a toothbrush planted firmly in mouth. It left a bad taste and ruined an image I’ve had since I was 12.
Where I come from, Michael Myers was a 6-foot tall human Godzilla that destroyed anything in his way—doors, windows, glass, and of course… humans.
Rob Zombie tried adding a more humanistic side to Michael Myers with grunting, being maskless half the movie (and looking suspiciously like Zombie himself), and even giving us a single word in English at the end. Part of what brings people back to watching the Halloween franchise is wondering if we’ll ever seen Michael’s face (excluding the very dark glimpse of him in the original Halloween) or witness some type of emotion. We’re waiting for it, but we never really want it. Like the sexual tension between two characters in a TV series. You want Jim and Pam to hook up, but when it happens the excitement is gone. It was a mistake.
Zombie also destroyed the image of Dr. Loomis—the lovable doctor that did everything he could to help Michael and everyone around him, dedicating his entire life to the monitoring and treatment of Michael, all the while reminding us time and time again that Michael Myers was pure evil. In Zombie’s Halloween 2 remake, Dr. Loomis is nothing but a greedy-eyed, selfish monster himself with no real regard for anything but a bigger paycheck and a girl in his bed.
In my opinion, Zombie isn’t a horrible filmmaker, though I think he misses the mark several times with all but maybe The Devil’s Rejects. You can tell the man has a great artistic eye, but he also likes to trash up his movies to where even the hardcore audiences wonder where he’s coming from. I believe he feels he’s bringing some unique element to something that doesn’t need it and instead distracts the audience from a potentially decent film.
I think one day Zombie may just get a homerun with one of his films. But I’d really like to see him stay clear of tainting any other franchise that so many hold dear.
With the second season having started this summer, here are a few words about a show that I noticed a lot of people are missing out on. The Strain is a horror drama TV series based on the book series of the same name written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. This particular review covers the entire first series as a whole.
Though I’d heard of the TV series as well as the books, I’d never actually dove into either until Hulu had the complete first season available. I saw a few mentions of it via Facebook friends, and when I noticed el Toro’s name attached to it I decided to give it the ole’ three-episode trial run–something my wife and I came up with. Giving a series a three-episode chance should develop the characters enough for you to be emotionally invested in the show and be enjoying the experience. And if it doesn’t, well then it’s probably not worth your time or anybody else’s and it’s time to move on. After watching the pilot, there was no need for the three-episode trial. I would be completing the season.
TV and video streaming series have become addictive, dark soap operas. The writing and character development in many of these shows in the last decade have been quite impressive. People are revolving their social and recreational activities around episodes of American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, Hannibal, and others like it, more than ever. Though The Strain may not be reeling in the masses like a few of the aforementioned, in my opinion it rates up there with one of the best made-for–TV horror series to ever grace a living room screen.
The show contains all the gore we’ve been accustomed to in today’s modern TV that The Walking Dead brought with it. The story brings your traditional Nosferatu type and fuses it with a modern-world apocalypse via viral infection–a strain that turns you into a blood sucking nightwalker with a tongue that truly shames Gene Simmons’ own appendage in comparison.
The Strain beings with a mysterious event involving an idle commercial plane that has safely landed but with no signs of life on the inside. Enter the Center for Disease Control, and the main characters it brings, with an attempt to make sense of it all. Things slowly unfold, and in the meantime New York City is being taken over by the spread of the evil-born strain.
The series bounces around various characters and their subplots. And while some shows bore their audience with at least one subplot that feels more like filler than a functional building block, The Strain manages to keep us interested in each person’s life. The characters in The Strain feel nearly equally exciting as we explore their background, their flaws, and their struggles with each playing an important role in the unfolding of the story. However, I do have one problem with the show: The computer hacking mastermind. This is where using a stereotype would have helped the believability. I’m more apt to think someone who can take down the internet on a global scale is most likely filled with abhorrently awkward social skills and is probably not all that familiar with makeovers, exercise, or even the sun. But we’re presented with a toned sex symbol with long, flowing locks and a great complexion. It’s bothersome, but not enough to change the channel.
I’m one of these people who read and watch with pessimistic eyes. I look for the bad in everything. I’m just searching for an excuse not to like something. It’s my own personal test I put things through. I have high standards. I’m drawn to loop holes and weak characters and stereotypes that don’t work; the whole time longing for originality, particularly anything that takes me for an unsuspecting ride. The Strain provides a very enjoyable ride.
The show’s overall concept isn’t exactly innovative. It takes our fascination with a zombie apocalypse and gives it to the vampires in the form of a visible contagion that at one point gave me an actual nightmare with the strain’s infectious worms burrowing in my own flesh. The cursed worms…quite possibly the most disturbing element of the show. For fans who have taken to The Walking Dead and are looking for another horror series, this show does not hold the same dark tone, and perhaps it’s even a bit more unbelievable. But I think you’ll find that by even attempting to apply that three-episode trial run you’ll want to ride it all the way to the end.
I recently wrote an article presenting man’s desire for love and companionship as to the possible reason behind TheBride of Frankenstein being favored over its predecessor. However, in this review, let’s not dig so deep. Another valid argument could be that the monster himself gets much more screen time—starting nearly right away. We get to see him interact, kill, learn, smoke, drink and then be rejected by his arguably hot would-be female companion.
The movie begins with bride actress, Elsa Lanchester, playing the role of Mary Shelley, as she tells her friends that the Frankenstein story she had penned didn’t end where they thought it did. This segues into the meat of the film.
In the audience’s eyes, the Frankenstein monster from the first film was nothing more than an unfortunate and misunderstood man-made creature. Never meaning anyone real harm. However, this movie temporarily drops the innocent act, as the monster starts right away with a murderous rampage and outright kills the first two people he sees, as he pulls himself from the wreckage that buried him at the end of the first film. We momentarily drop that sympathy we once had for the monster only to later return to those old empathetic feelings, as he struggles to accept himself and find companionship in someone…anyone!
Meanwhile Dr. Frankenstein is coerced, though unwillingly, by his old mentor, Dr. Septimus Pretorius, into continuing the experiments, in particular providing a mate for the monster.
While Frankenstein’s monster was nothing but a shambling potpourri of dead body parts in the first film, here he begins to learn bits of the English language as well as lessons on the local culture when he stumbles across an old blind man. Because the man is unable to view the monster’s hideous appearance, he invites the monster in and they make a party of it—complete with smoking and drinking. Now normally I would have chalked up the hand-rolled smoke as tobacco, but it seemed it held a wacky component when after a few puffs the monster goes from excited to calm in a second’s time, entering a trance-like state as a result. Later on, Dr. Pretorius would use alcohol as a lure, coaxing the monster out of the lab using a bottle of whiskey like a carrot on a stick. The poor guy is “alive” for only a few days and they’re already corrupting him.
It isn’t until the end of the fairly short film that we get to see what the monster would hope would be his companion, a friend—the bride. However, upon first sight of the monster, his female counterpart shrieks in terror like everyone else he has run across. While now dealing with the rejection of the one thing he thought would accept his puzzle-piece of a body, he decides to end it all by throwing a switch within the lab that would blow it up. Before he sheds a tear and pulls the said switch, the monster pleads with his creator and the creator’s new wife to “Go! You live!” and declares “We belong dead,” referring to himself, the undead bride, and Dr. Pretorius.
Every fan of the genre should see the classics, but I’m with most when I deem The Bride of Frankenstein superior over the original Frankenstein. I’m not sure I’ve ever run into anyone who has not chosen this film over the original. Again, my guess is more screen time from the monster. Any chance we get to see Jack Pierce’s amazing makeup job is a real treat.
Let the Right One In (2008, Sweden) Director: Tomas Alfredson Writer: John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay, novel) Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl
Based on the 2004 novel Lat Den Ratte Komma In by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay, Let the Right One In is an indie foreign film beautifully shot and told. I’ve only seen two or three dozen foreign films in my time, but I’ve never been let down once by any of them. Let the Right One In ranks up there with the best I’ve seen. And while there are only a small handful of vampire films I thoroughly enjoy: Near Dark, 30 Days of Night, and Salem’s Lot being three of those, you can add Let the Right One In to that list.
The film tells the story of Oskar, a timid bullied preteen, and his relationship with new neighbor, Eli—a girl who shares his age and who is slowly revealed to be a vampire; something we figure out well before Oskar does. The somber winter tone of the film is perfect for setting up the lonely existence that each of the characters face on a daily basis. Eli’s situation is unique, as she relies on a co-conspirator to help supply blood; though completely inadequate at doing his part, she ends up taking things into her own hands. Because of the compassion she has for Oskar, recognizing commonalities they share, we root for her and any help she can provide her new friend, as he too unwaveringly accepts her for who she is.
Though there are some frighteningly creepy scenes throughout, the film is really about the relationship between the two children and how they act as each other’s savior in a world where they feel helplessly alone.
When a movie this subtle brings the horror, the tiniest thing can be a smack in the face that’ll leave you stunned for days. With the use of clever cinematography, haunting imagery will stick with you for weeks. I’m not talking jump scares with spooky faces here. This movie is much more intelligent than that. The bleak tone of the film helps add to the storytelling and mysteriousness of what lies next. This is not a predictable story. Foreign films are like that. They provide something original for us in the states. Case in point, both The Grudge and The Ring, American remakes of Japanese horror, utilize a very common ghostly image in the films: The onryo—a young girl with long black hair dangling in her face. For us it was new and frightening at the time, but for the Japanese it’s so last summer. Let the Right One In feels fresh. And as beautifully told as it is, I would gather it’s just as genuine in Sweden.
I’ve not read the book this film is based on, nor have I seen the American remake so I can make no comparisons. I can only state that I now understand why I’ve seen the Swedish original mentioned in numerous places. This is an excellent piece of cinema that should be appreciated by any fan of the genre and even those who hate the vampire subgenre.
Saw II (2005) Director: Darren Lynn Bousman Writers: Leigh Whannell, Darren Lynn Bousman Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Beverly Mitchell, Glenn Plummer
Disclaimer (sort of): If I find out ahead of time that a movie has a twist then I’ll be looking for it the entire time. It can ruin the experience for me if I allow it. I’d rather not read within the synopsis of a book or film that there’s anything that’ll take me for a ride. Just let me get there on my own. My family can testify to this. Using the word “twist” in any description is spoiler enough for me. That being said, if you’re as sensitive to spoilers as I am I may have already ruined it for you, so just know that I sympathize with you and I’m sorry. However, the rest of you who are not so hypersensitive, not to worry, I will not reveal any true spoilers. And because there’s so much to spoil in the movie, this will make for a rather quick review with a very minimalistic approach to any synopsis.
Marky Mark’s brother, and a SWAT team, are forced to play a serial killer’s twisted game while desperately trying to save eight people who are also forced to “play,” all the while being viewed through monitors by the investigating team. Saw II answers a lot of questions we had after the first film and gives us insight into the “Jigsaw killer,” the man responsible for “blessing” his victims with forcing them to look at life from a different perspective and come out valuing it more than they had. The problem is that if they actually made it through his psychotic tests, they’re forever warped themselves.
After seeing the first Saw when it first came out on DVD, like most everyone, I was blown away by the shocker ending. I love movies that can trick me the way Saw did. I had absolutely no idea the movie would end the way it did, and the writers gained my respect as a result. But I knew they’d never get me a second time. So when viewing the sequel, Saw II, I paid very close attention this time around. I know I gave the screen a huge grin, and perhaps even clapped, when all was revealed at the end. They’d gotten me again.
Yes, I haven’t told you much about the movie itself. You’ll either love me or hate me for it. You choose. So let me summarize my review in one last paragraph. I’ve only seen the first four Saw movies, and I’ve really no desire to watch the rest. I guess as I’ve grown older I left the senseless gore for something more cerebral, and as the Saw franchise rises in number, the traps become much more elaborate and gore-filled; however, the story suffers and lacks creativity. The franchise is indeed a dead horse being flogged time and time again, even if the flogging uses a different weapon each time. However, Saw I and II are a nice little package of cerebral entertainment that will leave you satisfied and thankful you’ve been had by the creators. It’s not often that a sequel can stand up just as straight as its predecessor, but Saw II did it exceptionally well.
Check out the Saw II trailer:
Creepshow (1982): Directed by: George A. Romero Writers: Stephen King Stars: Hal Holbrock, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nelsen, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, Stephen King, Fritz Weaver, Tom Atkins
Getting film and literary rockstars Stephen King, George Romero and Tom Savini together on a single project in the 80s is equivalent to creating a super group with Hendrix, Cobain, Jagger, and Bonham. Yeah, I know…only one is alive and there’s no bassist, but you get the gist of it. The film super group was formed, and in the fall of 1982 they released Creepshow. With five separate short films bookended by comic book animation and a sub-story, the film paid homage to EC and DC horror comics from the 50s; right down to most of them regarding revenge and executions of “karma”—bad things happening to bad people.
The soundtrack that looms behind the scenes is the fabulous creepy synth of the 80s. And it sets the campy mood perfectly. From the beginning of the film it’s evident right away that you’re about to watch something very different. Throughout the movie, intense moments are enhanced by vibrant back lighting use green, blue, and red hues. It works wonderfully and certainly lends hand to the atmosphere they were trying to convey—pure campy, comic book horror. Because they all have their own strengths and memorable makeup, I don’t necessarily have a favorite segment, so allow me to dissect each one:
Father’s Day: Written by Stephen King specifically for the film, this is essentially a ghost story with revenge. On the rich estate of a murdered emotionally abusive father, family members gather for an annual traditional dinner. The abused daughter (and alleged murderer) stops off at the gravestone of the father she killed and spills her whiskey on the grave. Apparently that’s a catalyst for waking the dead, as the remainder of the segment reveals a beautifully constructed, maggot-filled zombie stalking those partying down on his estate. And there’s also cake involved.
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill: Country bumpkin, Jordy Verrill, played by Stephen King, stumbles across the remains of a meteor that landed on his property. While making an attempt to contain the meteor in hopes of making a bundle of money, Jordy contaminates himself with an ever-growing weed that progresses rapidly, covering his property as well as himself. While Stephen King has made cameos in various films, he’s no actor. That being said, this role was made for him (actually, I think it literally was). King’s performance as lunkhead Jordy Verrill is perfectly orchestrated. It’s rather impressive.
Something to Tide You Over: Whodathunk Leslie Nielsen could play such a believably evil character? Surely not I (there’s a joke in there for the Airplane folks). As far as acting in Creepshow, the talent lies in this segment. Leslie Nielsen plays the victim of infidelity and he’s had enough. His voyeuristic self premeditates a plan that leaves his wife and the home wrecker, played by Ted Danson, buried in the sand up to their chins, while the tide slowly comes in. To satisfy Nielsen’s character’s vengeance, video equipment is set up to catch it all. But like any good horror comic, the sinful couple come back from the dead, seaweed laden and waterlogged, to exact their revenge. The makeup is excellent, with each drowned victim resembling a green thumb held in the tub for days—wrinkled and withered.
The Crate: For most, this is probably the segment that stands out for them, mainly because of Savini’s brainchild, affectionately deemed “Fluffy.” This tale concerns a college janitor who is hungry for shiny things. He runs into a crate that had been under a set of stairs for a century and a half and calls in one of the college professors to have a look see. They open the crate and regret ensues followed by gore galore. The crate’s contents are basically hairy teeth and claws bent on eating humans. The crate is then used to exact….you guessed it: Revenge. A poor soul who happens to be stuck in a marriage with an emotionally abusive drunk-of-a-wife sees his chance at ridding his life of the alcoholic nag and so takes the opportunity.
They’re Creeping Up On You: Out of all the stories, this one is probably my least favorite. An arrogant, rich germaphobe lives in a building that is locked down, has high-tech equipment, and is pure white like some sterile prison. The majority of the segment is us watching what a class-A butthole this guy is (prepping us for the big karma finale), and eventually roaches take over in this seemingly impenetrable, ridiculously sanitized building. And then there’s some gore. As you can tell, I don’t hold the same enthusiasm for this story as I do for the others. It just wasn’t relatable and the situation was completely unrealistic.
The movie ends with a cameo by Tom Savini himself, as the remaining bookended sub-plot finishes the movie off. There are currently three Creepshow movies out, and though the second one is quite a ride in itself, none of them pull off that perfect campy, comic-book feel that the first one does. Highly recommended for those who haven’t seen it. Creepshow is a one-of-a-kind experience.
With the entertainment industry absolutely saturated with all things zombie, I had zero expectations going into this new TV series. To me yet another book, movie, or TV show about zombies was like adding salt to an anchovy. We don’t need it. And eventually we’re going to spit this undead mess out of our mouth and make room for the next fantastic trend. But for now we’ll continue to pretend that there are still more rotting human tales to tell (I guess I can’t complain too much. I’m responsible for some of that salt).
iZombie is a new TV show based on the Vertigo/DC Comic developed by the CW Television Network. To give a thorough review I’m going to include spoilers, so if you’re looking for the verdict just read the last line or two for a summarization. That’s usually how these things go.
The spoils: Girl is a doctor and engaged to be married. Life is good. Girl ends up at a boat party where there’s an isolated zombie outbreak. Girl is contaminated by the zombie virus and ends up drowning in the water. Girl wakes up in a body bag on the beach completely intact (including her rationale, motor skills, and sense of humor) but a bit paler and with a new appetite for “brain food.”
Fast forward five months and she’s no longer engaged (loves her fiancé too much to fill him in or subject him) and she now has a job in forensics doing autopsies—talk about convenience food. Out of nowhere, the woman’s co-worker puts two and two together and labels her a zombie. But not to worry cuz he’ll never tell. She explains to the secret holder that if she doesn’t eat brains she gets stupid and angry. He’s down with letting her munch at work…ON work, and after eating the brain of a recent homicide victim in her salad like some pink crouton tofu, she develops visions of what the victim went through and so establishes a relationship with a detective who thinks she’s a psychic. In a nutshell, that’s iZombie.
The one thing that helped me look past some of the poorly written jokes was the concept that pale girl also picks up a few attributes from the person she’s currently digesting. So not only is she seeing through their eyes, but she’s got some of their brains…figuratively; be it bad habits or a foreign language, etc. The pilot didn’t elaborate for how long she holds onto these new talents and faults, but my guess is just long enough to get the case solved, while each episode she’ll pick up fresh traits.
iZombie is 80% whodunit cop show and 20% undead. My cons for the show would have to include the people close to zombie girl and their ignorance toward her new look. It was a bit unbelievable. And at least half of the “jokes” fell stale. Normally character problems for me fade after time, so those characters I may have issues with will probably feel like good acquaintances by mid season, and at this rate I anticipate sticking around that long.
As bad as I tore up the zombie bandwagon at the beginning of the review, I have to admit I’m looking forward to the next episode. And maybe even the one after that. Pass the salt please.
The Last Man on Earth, Directors: Ubaldo Ragona (as Ubaldo B. Ragona) , Sidney Salkow (uncredited) Writers: William F. Leicester (screenplay), Richard Matheson (screenplay) (as Logan Swanson) Stars: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli
Based on Richard Matheson’s literary masterpiece, I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth makes the first of three attempts (the second being The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston and the third the CGI fest I Am Legend with Will Smith) at bringing Matheson’s book to the big screen. Such a simple idea with minimal characters, yet Hollywood can’t seem to get it right. While the other two adaptations may have been more visually stunning (well, if you like your monsters full blown CGI; poorly done I might add), The Last Man on Earth is the most similar to the book, yet fails horribly in its delivery. I blame the writer and director. And I’ll punish them more later.
Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, the lone survivor in a world that has succumbed to a world-wide plague that has turned the living into shambling, weak vampire/zombie hybrids. While the sun sleeps, Dr. Morgan spends his nights spinning vinyl, reminiscing, and giving his best effort to keep his sanity intact, all the while the undead relentlessly pound on his residence in an attempt to gain access and make the doctor one of their own. Once daylight breaks, the doctor attends to his daily ritualistic chores and preparations including filling up on gas for his vehicle and generator, disposing of plagued bodies of those he has destroyed while sleeping, restoring expired garlic, and fixing mirrors and boards broken from the beating the house took the night before.
Ultimately the doctor runs into a female. There is a twist, and we find out a theory the doctor has regarding why he’s still alive.
Let me say this. In 2012, Matheson’s book received the Vampire Novel of the Century Award from the Horror Writer’s Association. If you have yet to read it, this really should encourage you to skip all film versions and do so. I’ve yet to find someone who disliked the book. That being said, let’s get back to punishing the filmmakers.
I think the biggest error the creators of the film made was to have Price narrate his actions. This dumbed down the movie significantly and pointed out the obvious instead of trusting the viewers. The narration in this case was just lazy filmmaking. Yes, Mr. Price has a hauntingly beautiful voice, but this is a movie. These tales are told visually and by using necessary dialogue, leaving the viewer’s mind to fend for itself and to help create and sometimes interpret.
While there is one genuinely creepy scene in which a plague victim who had recently been buried (rather than thrown into a burning pit normally used for disposal of bodies) scratches at the doctor’s door asking to be let in, overall the acting is poor, the actions and reactions are not believable, and potential is ruined. Surely the theme will attract this generation due to the abundant interest in post-apocalyptic scenarios; however, unless they are in it for nostalgia, I think viewers will find themselves disappointed.