Tag Archives: Post-apocalyptic

Review of The Last Man On Earth (1964)

29 Dec

The Last Man On Earth (1964) is an Italian sci-fi/thriller/horror film, based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. Yes, it was also adapted as The Omega Man (1971), I Am Legend (2007) and I Am Omega (2007).

Directed by the Italian director Ubaldo Ragona (Una vergine per un bastardo (1966), Baldoria nei Caraibi (1961)).

Written by William F. Leicester (The High Chaparral (1967 TV), Bonanza (1959 TV)), some work was done by Matheson himself, but because he wasn’t satisfied with the results, so he was credited as Logan Swanson.

Starring: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and others.

Richard Matheson’s novel has been brought to the screen more than enough times, and as far as I can tell we can stop expecting a film that would do it justice. All the adaptations work best at the beginning where it follows the heroes while they have (a quote from this film) “Another day to live through. Better get started.”, but start falling apart when they try to do something different.

However, this could be considered the closest adaptation and maybe for that reason it is also my favourite one.

It used to not be uncommon for Italians to make horror movies for American market and this is one of those Italian-produced “cheap” horror flicks in English. And it kind of suffers from this aspect. It isn’t a conventional 60’s horror b-movie, so the opening credits in spooky fonts and over-the-top dramatic score add unnecessary cheesiness to an otherwise pretty subtle movie. It has a certain mood, that is just perfect but then, when it gets interrupted by the inappropriate score I got pretty pissed off. It does improve later on, but mostly because the film becomes more dramatic.

Some subtle music cues and even total silence would be much better suited for the post-apocalyptic feel. At one point Vincent Price puts on an LP and that serves as a lot better soundtrack.

I don’t know what happened there, but there are some montages of Price killing vampires by hammering stakes into their chests, but it shows it from a low angle so you only see him hammering away in what seems like totally random directions.

Vincent Price isn’t bad as Neville, but is miscast and I guess was cast mostly because of his horror-cred. He’s a good actor, but has this vibe about him that is just too elegant and not enough everyman-like. Franca Bettoia is ok, is it just me or does she look a lot like Jenna Elfman?

The “vampires” are portrayed pretty accurately as they are basically a bit more intelligent zombies, I suppose the term just wasn’t that well-known when the book was written.

It’s amusing how Neville’s home video looks like a 50’s TV show, when it is shown being shot with a Super 8 camera.

Overall  a good movie, best I Am Legend adaptation yet and totally recommended.

"I'm here to kill vampires and grow pencil moustaches. And my moustache is fully grown."

Review of The Stand (1994)

12 Dec

The Stand (1994) is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy/drama TV mini series, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, consisting of 4 90-minute episodes.

Directed by Mick Garris (Critters 2 (1988), Riding The Bullet (2004)), best known for his adaptations of Stephen King’s works.

Written by Stephen King (Sleepwalkers (1992), Pet Sematary (1989)), that’s right, King wrote the teleplay himself.

Starring: Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Ruby Dee, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer, Corin Nemec, Matt Fewer, Ossie Davis and others.

I must say that I am a big fan of Stephen King, even though his writing style isn’t always perfect, I seem to mostly enjoy it. He’s a huge part of horror fiction and the huge amount of screen adaptations is a testament to his talent. Most of it is total rubbish, but some of it successfully captures the greatness of King’s work. I can gladly say that in this case it’s the latter one.

I haven’t seen all of the adaptations, because that’s almost impossible, but I’ve seen quite a few and this just might be my favourite. But keep in mind, that it is my favourite translation of his work to the screen and not the best movie based on his novels. I’ve read the novel and I loved it and the mini series is more faithful to the source material than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, it takes some significant liberties, but overall it’s forgivable.

Mini series is what everyone would like adaptations to be, because you can’t do 500 pages justice in 90-minutes. I mean, hell yeah, I wanted The Stand to be 6 hours long, I noticed the time I had spent watching it, but it felt like a standard 2-hour film.

I think I’ve mentioned before that there’s something I love about post-apocalyptic fiction, so I loved the premise. For those who don’t know, it’s about a superflu destroying like 99% of the world’s population and how the survivors gather together through some supernatural (it’s King after all) ways.

This is going to be a longer review, so I better move on.

Gary Sinise is the perfect casting for Stu, yet I would have never thought the role would suit him so much.

I pretty much hated the changes made to Harold’s character, instead of this disgusting slob, he was just a nerdy guy, who’s obviously good-looking, which is hidden by glasses and some bad make-up pimples.

Larry’s story arc was all screwed up, but Adam Storke is good in this role, because what he lacks in acting skills, he makes up for with his rock star presence.

Jamey Sheridan is a very odd choice to play the main villain. He’s ridiculously early 90’s redneck looking. He has this ugly jean suit and either the most stupid or bad-ass looking mullet I’ve ever seen. Also there’s some demon make-up scenes that were totally unnecessary and those also featured some CG transformations, which were… well 90’s CGI, ’nuff said.

Rob Lowe isn’t what I would imagine to play Nick, but he does a good job.

Bill Fagerbakke handles the role of Tom pretty well. Sometimes when actors play mentally handicapped characters it comes across a bit too forced, but he more or less captured the feel of the character in the novel.

I guess 90’s was a time when Molly Ringwald was considered attractive? Ok, she’s not that awful, Fran wasn’t the best character in the novel too, but I can’t say anything good about her performance either.

Another perfect casting choice was Miguel Ferrer as Lloyd. He’s just so great, bringing the subtlety the script had left out, but the book had.

They decided to blend two female characters into one, portrayed by the very unattractive Laura San Giacomo.

Stephen King himself appears a couple of times, even has some lines, some people find things like that distracting, but I liked that.

And one that is less a weird casting and more just an odd performance is by Shawnee Smith (Amanda from the Saw series), who gives an absurdly ridiculous, over-the-top, spoiled, bitchy teenage slut character performance. I wasn’t sure if I was entertained by it or hated it. She must have been overacting so much on purpose.

Casting is overall very good, except maybe for Harold and maybe some others, but, with a cast this huge, that’s forgivable.

If they remade it as it was planned, a trilogy of theatrical films, it might benefit by not being so toned down, but I don’t see it being much better than this,

Some of the minor changes are really pointless and I don’t really understand.

I loved this “movie”. Although, the first episode was the best one and then it went downwards, I enjoyed it throughout. But I can’t really recommend it to anyone. I enjoyed it mostly, because I was already invested in the characters, but for someone who hasn’t read the novel it might seem too draggy and silly. So I recommend this mostly to the fans of the novel.

"What do you mean "MacGyver isn't on TV anymore"? Eh, I guess, I'll have to go and listen to some Michael Bolton records."

Review of I Am Omega (2007)

19 Nov

I Am Omega (2007) is a direct-to-DVD zombie apocalypse/action/drama film, produced by The Asylum, a company specializing in mockbusters. It may also be considered a unoffical adaptation of the novel I Am Legend (1954) by Richard Matheson.

Directed by Griff Furst (Lake Placid 3 (2010), Wolvesbayne (2009)), yes, also the director of the previously reviewed 100 Million BC (2008).

Written by Geoff Meed (Universal Soldiers (2007), 6 Guns (2010)), who works mostly as an actor and plays the main villain of this film.

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Geoff Meed, Jennifer Lee Wiggins, Ryan Lloyd.

You might be wondering about the title, it’s just a combination of two other adaptations the same novel. One is The Omega Man (1971) and the other is I Am Legend (2007), which this movie is trying to cash in on, but I wouldn’t call it a total rip-off. It even came out a month before the Will Smith version.

The script is the worst part of the movie, because the plot is incredibly thin. There’s no explanation for the zombie plague, it spends a lot of time on showing the main character being alone and doing things without explaining them either. That part actually sort of calls back to the novel. He also keeps hallucinating. Then it continues on with the main story which doesn’t make much sense when logic is applied. For example, the main character decides to blow up a whole city for no real reason by using unconvincing amount of explosives.

The acting is decent, Mark Dacascos isn’t the most expressive actor, but he does know martial arts and is a fairly acceptable action hero, being at his best when beating up zombies using a nunchaku and worst when unconvincingly delivering the cliché lines, written by the easily best actor (not much of an accomplishment there) in the movie, Geoff Meed. Meed is playing this buff asshole military guy (with a very peculiar motivation and a strange idea on about its execution), which seems like something Ron Perlman would play in a bigger movie. Both Wiggins and Lloyd are ok.

Since it is a The Asylum production my expectations were very low, but it actually turned out to be not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would, it is a low-budget film, so I can forgive the zombie make-up not being that great or the awful CG explosions, but there’s also good things. The cinematography is rather beautiful, at times even it being shot in HD video looks really impressive and it has some of these things that work in B-movies, like fist or nunchaku fights with zombies, it also does enough practical effects and the CG backdrops aren’t painful to see.

It is not a good movie, but I did for some reason enjoy it. With The Asylum you expect these entertaining, so-bad-it’s-good films, but in this there isn’t much action until about a halfway in. It lingers on the loneliness and the borderline insanity of the main character, seemingly trying to actually add substance to a B-movie plot.

I do recommend this if an I Am Legend’s mockbuster version sounds interesting to you. It is a very mediocre movie. Watch at your own risk. And if you want to see a better, more faithful adaptation of the novel, watch The Last Man On Earth (1964).

"Hey, man, want to buy my long-sleeve authentic zombie shirt?"

Review of The Walking Dead Season 2 Premiere

18 Oct

The Walking Dead (TV)What Lies Ahead” (2011) is the first episode of the second season of the drama/horror/zombie apocalypse TV series based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman, who’s also a writer and executive producer on the show.

Directed by Ernest Dickerson  (Dexter (TV), The Wire (TV) & Gwyneth Horder-Payton (Sons of Anarchy (TV), The Shield (TV)).

Written by the show’s creator Ardeth Bey aka Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist) and Robert Kirkman.

First of all, I must say that I am a huge fan of the comic books, those are just the best thing ever, I should thank my friend Dmitri for recommending them. So my opinion of the show is kind of biased and I care about the characters way more than if I had never read them.

Although I think the show is great, I wouldn’t say that it has or will change television, but it definitely shows that television has changed and surprisingly to the good side. When was the last time you saw an almost 20-minute sequence with basically no dialogue and a ton of suspense? There’s one fact I noticed on Wikipedia that might mean something in the future, when the studio executives will think of what to do with this information.

On October 16, 2011, the season two premiere set a new record of 7.3 million viewers making it the most watched drama in the history of cable television.

Is that true or not I don’t know, but that’s pretty cool.

Seriously this might be the best zombie related thing in the cinema/TV in the last 10-20 years. I’m not saying that there hasn’t been any decent zombie movies in that time period, but has there really been something as memorable as Romero’s Night/Dawn/Day zombie flicks? I think no. And I don’t think it’s even worth mentioning TV and zombies.

This episode shows how Rick is slowly becoming a bit more ruthless for the sake of protecting his pack.

One of the biggest concerns I have is the kid actors. Chandler Riggs who plays Carl is already like 12, so I don’t understand what are they going to do when on the show it’s just been a few months, when in reality he turns 16 and is 6’3″. I’m sure they’ll figure something out, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’m also wondering about that Rick thing (those who have read the books know what I’m talking about).

Norman Reedus (one of the character’s written specifically for the show) is pretty cool as this bad-ass hunter redneck, although he does look like a homeless person.

I was still a bit surprised by the ending, somehow I didn’t see it coming. I suppose, because I was waiting for a different scene. But I can’t imagine how pant-shittingly shocking that might be for non-readers.

Oh, and the zombie make-up effects might be the best I’ve ever seen.

Overall a pretty solid season start, which is good because the end of season 1 was starting to get sloppy. If you haven’t started watching this show, what are you doing here? Go, watch it!

Got some change? Will give archery lessons for food!