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Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 48: The Last Man On Earth

The Last Man On Earth
And he still can't get a date

Older horror movies are special. They were made in a time where it wasn't all just blood and entrails. Actual stories were needed to keep the audience entertained and terrified. Nowadays, movies just throw some special effects at you and call it a day. It was time to watch an old horror movie and what better way to jump in than with a Vincent Price movie?

Based on the novel I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth stars Vincent Price as Dr Robert Morgan. A plague has decimated the planet, leaving only Morgan and horrible, vampire-like creatures that terrorize him when the sun goes down. The mutants hate garlic and cannot stand to look at their own reflections in the mirror. Morgan has survived three long years by a long supply of canned food, generators, and meticulous routine. He makes his daily rounds, going through the city, killing mutants with a stake to the heart and throwing their bodies into a burning pit. We learn that Morgan's daughter and wife both died from the plague despite all his hard work at a lab. To his surprise, Morgan discovers a dog and takes him in. He is crushed to discover that the dog is infected and disposes of it. During his rounds, he sees a living woman and runs after her. The woman is named Ruth and Morgan takes her back to his fortified home. Suspicious, he shoves garlic towards her and she recoils. Ruth is infected and reveals that she is part of a society of infected humans that have learned to control the mutation. The society knows of Morgan and plans to kill him because he has been unwittingly killing their loved ones during his rounds. Ruth pulls a gun on Morgan, but cannot fire. With her blood, Morgan is actually able to cure Ruth completely. Will they have enough time to warn the coming horde of the cure or will it be too late?

This is going to hurt you a lot more than it is going to hurt me

The story of I Am Legend has appeared on the big screen many times. The Last Man on Earth sticks pretty close to the basic material. Vincent Price does well in his role as a tortured man, but it feels a little odd when he's shown in flashbacks as a loving father. It just doesn't feel right seeing him as a father. His voice and emotion is perfect for the narration and really sets a creepy tone for the entire movie. You really feel the hopelessness and loneliness in the scene involving the dog. Maybe its because I love dogs, but that really got to me. There's a brief moment where Morgan has hope and says something along the lines of “It's going to be alright”. You know he's really talking to himself and it just breaks your heart when he discovers the dog is also infected.

The mutants themselves take a lot from vampire lore, such as the garlic, reflections, stakes to the heart and only coming out at night, but I wouldn't officially call them vampires. They are able to somewhat talk and the use clubs to smash, but they're not the romanticized (or sparkly) vampires you see today. There is a bit of action, but by today's standards, the movie is pretty tame. Most of the real action is psychological as Morgan wrestles with the knowledge that he couldn't save his family and the crippling loneliness.

These Jehovah's Witnesses just won't quit!

The Last Man On Earth is a good story and well acted. It's a bit light on action and heavy on the psychological, so it tends to drag in spots. There are a few plot holes and you'll find yourself questioning Morgan's actions a bit too much. Overall, its an enjoyable watch for the thinking horror fan. The Last Man On Earth gets you to ask some serious questions about ourselves. In this age of smart phones, wi-fi, and social media, sometimes its hard to imagine being alone, but that can all end in a flash. Think of how many people you would lose contact with or what news you would miss. Once technology goes out, will anyone be there to help you light a candle?


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