The Horror Squad Movie Club is a new weekly feature where we pick a film, watch it and then discuss it. Head over to our introduction for the skinny.
How do more people not know about The Last Man On Earth? This should be one of the first films that spring to mind when horror nerds like you and I banter about classics, particularly pre-color ones. Yet I've been met with the gazes of dullards whenever I mention it (and admittedly, I only just saw it a few years ago). Casual film fans have no idea and even many ravenous horror fans like you and I just kind of brush it off, as if to say, "Oh, one of Vincent Price's ten thousand films? Meh." I'll bet good money that even our own Brian Salisbury didn't do his homework this weekend and watch it. (Yes, Brian, you're being called out!)
Out of the three attempts to adapt Richard Matheson's 'I Am Legend', this one is the best. Yes, it's better than a snarling Charlton Heston playing chess with a bust of Caesar. It's better than Will Smith doing battle with bounding bundles of pixels. While it's really only marginally more faithful than the subsequent efforts, it hits some of the finer points right on the head. Since it's in the public domain, this flick will practically fall in your lap. There are literally dozens of places to find it online and its a staple of those generic horror box set deals, alongside gems like Nosferatu and Atom Age Vampire. So if you haven't yet joined Vincent Price in the apocalypse, you're out of excuses. Watch it. Discuss. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Mosey on past the jump to read my accolades.
This is one of the loneliest films I think I've ever seen. The opening scenes of streets littered with nothing but stray bodies immediately gets under your skin. It feels like Chernobyl. There's no devastation. No scorched husks of buildings. No signs of nuclear Armageddon. Everyone just ...left. The grainy shots of the empty city looks convincing enough to have been culled from a documentary. The whole world is a tomb, dirty and decayed. This backdrop sets up some spooky sequences that are as powerful as they are understated. Watching Vincent Price throwing bodies into a blazing pit while wearing a gas mask has to be one of my favorites. The haunting silence of him foraging for food in an abandoned grocery store comes in a close second.
Price plays this one without even a hint of his trademark flamboyancy. We're used to seeing him as a scheming monster, bent on revenge against those who have wronged him. Here he's a nice, but haggard guy. He's bored. He's a slave to the routine that he has to maintain if he's to survive. Even if author Richard Matheson disagreed with the casting, I think he does remarkably well. The movie takes it's time, getting you into the routine with him. When he starts to come apart at the seams, it's more than a little troubling. You can feel his desperation as he eeks out a meager existence. He's a broken robot, quietly drowning in the solitude.
Night of the Living Dead may have done it better, but Last Man on Earth did it first. George Romero's zombie classic owes more than a little to Last Man On Earth. They're odd creatures, though. They move just like the shambling undead in 'Night', but they have the traditional weaknesses of vampires and some semblance of intellect. Dirty and sunken eyed, they made me realize how much I missed the clumsy stagger of traditional zombies. And when his wife returns from the grave, it's truly chilling.
It's an eerie, quiet film that takes it's time. Rather than being just a vampire or zombie tale, it's also go elements of plague-borne apocalypse films. Even when you think you know where it's headed, it takes a left turn in the third act and goes into surprising territory. Let us know what you think! And spread the word about the Horror Squad Movie Club on Twitter. Use the hashtag #hsmovieclub and wait for our new flick next Friday.
Watch it here on Slashcontrol.