I’ve been looking back at Richard Matheson’s seminal I AM LEGEND and the various movie adaptations the book has spawned. This week, Charlton Heston in 1971’s THE OMEGA MAN.
My horror movie education began with double bills of Hammer classics and Universal monster movies which used to be shown late Saturday nights on the BBC. When my parents bought our first VCR, a whole world of possibilities was opened. For the first time I was able to record and watch films I’d otherwise miss because they were on too late on a school night or because my parents didn’t think they were appropriate (please remember – I was very young, and this was the height of the Video Nasties craziness which outlawed 99.9% of the films I wanted to watch).
I remember recording mainstream horror movies such as ALIEN and THE OMEN and watching them endlessly for as long as I was able (usually until Dad needed the tape to record something else – tapes were damn expensive back in the day, and we had the sum total of four of them).
THE OMEGA MAN was another film I watched again and again until I could pretty much recite the script, and until re-watching it for this feature, I hadn’t seen it in a long time. I expected it to have dated badly, but Charlton Heston’s post-apocalyptic antics really took me by surprise. I knew I’d watched the movie through the rose-tinted spectacles of innocence and youth, but there’s no escaping the fact that this is a clunky and horrendously dated film.
Chuck plays Robert Neville who, in this version of the story, lives an isolated life of relative comfort in a funky pad which, for some inexplicable reason, reminded me of Batman’s cave (and I’m talking Adam West Batman here, not Christian Bale or that Affleck person). More than any other I AM LEGEND adaptation, this film is a product of its time. Watch the trailer and you’ll see what I mean, then click the link for my thoughts.
A couple of weeks ago I kicked off a retrospective look at I AM LEGEND by looking at Richard Matheson’s landmark book and promising to re-watch the three film adaptations which have been produced to date.
To my mind, this first adaptation – the Vincent Price starring LAST MAN ON EARTH from 1964 – is the best by a long shot, and that’s surprising given the increasing budgets and advances in technology used to make movies in the fifty-or-so years since it was made.
Or maybe it’s not surprising at all?
Maybe it makes perfect sense that a small, low-budget movie like this should come closest to matching the claustrophobic tone of Matheson’s book. Without the distraction of summer blockbuster state-of-the-art special effects, all we’re left to focus on is Vincent Price’s intense portrayal of Robert Morgan (confusingly re-named from Neville in this version of the story). When the world outside has shrunk to one man’s area of reach, why would we want to look any wider?
At this point I’d usually include a trailer, but LAST MAN ON EARTH is in the public domain (according to some sources), so I’ve embedded the entire movie below care of the Internet Archive.
Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND is a remarkable book. Do a straw poll of a hundred horror authors and ask them to name the single piece of fiction which most influenced them, and I’ll wager that a good number will cite I AM LEGEND. It’s not just authors – the same is probably true of film-makers too. You can’t read the book without having scenes from George Romero’s original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD play out in your head.
There’s no question, therefore, that this is an hugely influential novel, and the fact it’s been filmed on no less than three occasions is further proof of that. Interestingly, though, it’s also a remarkably slight book, coming in at less than 200 pages. So how does Matheson cram so much into so little? I decided to try and find out. There will unavoidably be spoilers ahead.
As I type I’ve literally just finished re-reading the book for the umpteenth time. I thought it would be interesting to give you my thoughts on the novel and then, over the next few weeks, to look at each of the film adaptations in turn (and if you’re not aware of the movies, they are as follows: LAST MAN ON EARTH, THE OMEGA MAN and I AM LEGEND).
I’m sure you know the basic plot by now but, just in case, here’s the back cover blurb: Robert Neville may well be the only survivor of an incurable plague that has mutated every other man, woman, and child into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures who are determined to destroy him.
By day, he scavenges for food and supplies, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But all the while the infected lurk in the shadows, watching his every move, waiting for him to make a mistake…
I guess we all have films we fully intend to watch on release but then, for one reason or another, we end up missing. I don’t know about you, but I have a ‘to watch’ pile that’s as big as my ‘to read’ pile. Today’s movie recommendation, Jim Mickle’s 2010 STAKE LAND, is one such film which I’d been planning to watch for years but only just got around to. STAKE LAND popped back up on my radar recently when it was announced that a sequel – THE STAKELANDER – has been filmed in secret. In these days of set reports and teaser images and trailers for trailers, it’s so refreshing to hear about a movie project for the first time once it’s in the can.
You’ve probably already seen STAKE LAND by now. In any event, here’s a synopsis and trailer. Click the link below for my brief thoughts.
America is a lost nation. When an epidemic of vampirism strikes and his family is slaughtered, young Martin (Connor Paolo) is taken under the wing of a grizzled, wayward hunter (Nick Damici) whose new prey are the undead. Simply known as Mister, the vampire stalker takes Martin on a journey through the locked-down towns of America’s heartland, searching for a better place to call home while taking down any bloodsuckers that cross their path.
My first film recommendation of 2016 and wow, what a belter I have for you today. David Michôd‘s THE ROVER is a bleak and surprising dystopian tale which features a superb performance from the ever-reliable Guy Pearce. Watch the trailer and click the link below for my thoughts.
10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened loner pursues the men who stole his only possession, his car. Along the way, he captures one of the thieves’ brother, and the duo form an uneasy bond during the dangerous journey.
I owe an apology to director Lawrie Brewster and writer Sarah Daly. After watching (and loving) their 2013 feature, LORD OF TEARS, I asked Sarah to answer a few questions for an article on this site. Events have since conspired against me, and I hadn’t been able to post the piece until now. Why now? Because their new movie THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS is currently in its last few days of Kickstarter funding, and it’s tantalisingly close to hitting its target. I urge you to watch the video below and get involved. If LORD OF TEARS is anything to judge the new movie by, your investment will be worth every penny.
I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little about LORD OF TEARS, not least because one of the RAVENS’ Kickstarter perks is this incredible limited edition action figure of LoT’s iconic and nightmarish Owlman.
LORD OF TEARS is a unique, beautifully filmed and paced, haunting movie which is truly worth your time. It tells the story of schoolteacher James who, haunted by horrific nightmares, returns to his childhood home in the Scottish Highlands. There he meets a mysterious woman whilst being plagued by visions of the terrifying Owlman. Once you’ve checked out the Kickstarter for RAVENS, click the link below to read more about LORD OF TEARS.
Please note – if you’re trying to track LORD OF TEARS down, a repackaged and retitled version of the film – OWL MAN – is coming in 2016.
When I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger was starring in a zombie movie, I wasn’t interested. For me, the best zombie stories are about the surviving characters and how they deal with the dead, and by deal with the dead, I mean how they fight to stay safe and alive, not how many corpses they can kill and how big the guns and bombs they use are.
I’ve never been the biggest Schwarzenegger fan. Sure, I’ll happily watch the first two (maybe three) Terminator movies again and again, Total Recall is superb, and the first Predator movie is an eighties classic, but Arnie’s never been a personal favourite, and the thought of the ageing all-action, ex-bodybuilding, ex-politician rampaging through hordes of the living dead just didn’t appeal. When I heard more about the project – MAGGIE – I became more interested. And when I got around to watching the movie, I realised my preconceptions were misplaced. MAGGIE’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a damn good little movie (yes, little movie), and Schwarzenegger is a revelation.
As a viral pandemic spreads across America, Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) searches for his runaway daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) and finds her in the quarantine wing of a hospital. Wade brings his daughter back home to his family for the short time before the teenager begins a painful metamorphosis.
Determined to hold onto his precious daughter as long as he can and refusing to hand her over to the local police Wade edges ever closer to a time where he will have to take matters into his own hands.
It’s been a while since I’ve recommended a movie, and what better day to put that right than today. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere but, here in the UK, Halloween is increasingly over-commercialised and family friendly. It’s about sweets and toys and parties now, with the true horror of the season and its dark origins long-forgotten.
Today I present for you a no-holds-barred, warts-and-all documentary about that most revered and reviled of monsters, the vampire. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is a chilling and revealing peek into the dark, depraved and sordid lives of the undead. Actually it’s not. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is, in fact, that rare movie beast: a horror comedy that works. It’s bloody hilarious, actually, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it for your Halloween evening viewing pleasure.
Follow the lives of Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) – three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles – like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. Hundreds of years old, the vampires are finding that beyond sunlight catastrophes, hitting the main artery, and not being able to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection – modern society has them struggling with the mundane like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.
A couple of times recently I’ve talked about remakes of classic horror movies. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. I maintain that in order for a remake to be a critical success, it has to have a point. It might be that the original fell short in some way, or that film-making technology has advanced sufficiently to benefit the telling of a particular story. Or maybe a sociological, environmental or political change or similar has given the premise a new lease of life.
Unfortunately, the George Romero scripted, Tom Savini directed 1990 remake of Romero’s classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has very little reason to exist. I caught the remake on it’s opening weekend twenty-five years ago (twenty-five years… how did that happen?) and I took the opportunity to watch it again recently. I really enjoyed it when I was twenty, and I wondered how it would hold up today. The short answer – it didn’t. Not particularly well, anyway.
It’s a new night for terror – and a new dawn in horror movie-making when special-effects genius Tom Savini (creator of the spectacularly gruesome make-up in FRIDAY THE 13TH and CREEPSHOW) brings modern technology to this colourful remake of George A. Romero‘s 1968 cult classic. Seven strangers are trapped in an isolated farmhouse while cannibalistic zombies – awakened from death by the return of a radioactive space probe – wage a relentless attack, killing (and eating) everyone in their path. The classic for the 90s: graphic, gruesome and more terrifying than ever!
You’ve no doubt noticed the absence of much real news on this site recently. I’ve teased a few things (which will be announced very soon, I promise), but I’ve tried to make a point of adding more movie recommendations to help you remember I’m still here and still alive.
The classic horror movie education of my youngest kids continued last night with a screening of one of my favourite movies of all time – David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake or THE FLY.
Now I know I rant against remakes frequently, but I’m also the first to admit there’s a time and a place for film ideas to be revisited (or reimagined, or rebooted, or whatever the trendy term of the day is). I talked about one a few weeks back – Philip Kaufman’s 1979 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and no doubt I’ll cover others here too.
Cronenberg’s THE FLY is a masterful reworking of the 1958 B movie starring David Hedison and Vincent Price which was, in turn, an adaptation of a George Langelaan short story which had been published in PLAYBOY a year earlier. Here’s a brief summary of the Cronenberg version, followed by a trailer. My thoughts are after the cut.
By the way – the movie features a wonderful soundtrack from composer Howard Shore. The trailer below does not. Very little cheesy 1980’s synth pop appears in the finished film.
Seth Brundle, a brilliant but eccentric scientist, offers investigative journalist Veronica Quaife a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment has proved successful. To a point. The machinery cannot yet transport organic matter. Brundle and Quaife’s burgeoning relationship helps him rethink the problem of ‘the flesh’. After successfully transporting a living creature, Brundle attempts to teleport himself, not realising a fly has enters the transmission booth with him. Brundle emerges a changed man.