Man, usually I’m really good at keeping up with the horror marathons. Stupid life obligations. I’m going to have a lot of catching up to do this weekend it would seem.
Last Man on Earth is both a decent comedy on FOX and a classic Vincent Price movie that is part of my barely touched Vincent Price Collection Volume 2 blu ray set. I think I dove into it briefly last year for the 2014 marathon and now this gave me a reason to go back and feel a smidge better about all of the money I spent on that collection that sits unused on a shelf.
Last Man on Earth is based on the Richard Matheson book I Am Legend, which of course gave birth to the Will Smith movie I Am Legend. I have indeed read the book, though my only memory of it is that I had the read the entire thing and write a book report on it the night before the report was due. So most of my recollection of my time reading it is a blur of coffee and sadness. My only memory of the Will Smith movie is that a guy kept coughing in the theatre and it ruined the entire experience and people were complaining but the employees couldn’t just tell a guy “yo knock that off or get out” so we were stuck with it. I think the movie was pretty good? All that to say that I went into this version very fresh with no expectations that it needed to match any other material.
I’ve gained a huge appreciation for Vincent Price in the last couple of years, largely because of the Scream Factory box sets that were released (I’m actually bummed out that this year will not see the released of a third installment). His reputation as one of horror’s all-time greats is well-earned as he provides a consistently engaging presence who is just at adept at playing comedy as he is horror. This is all highly beneficial here since naturally, outside of an extended flashback, Price is the sole character you’ll be with for the majority of the film.
Here Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, who is indeed the last man on earth. A virus has wiped out the rest of humanity, turning them into …I don’t think that ever actually say the word “vampire” but they are totally all vampires now. They don’t go out in the daylight, they are killed by wooden stakes through the heart and they aren’t fans of garlic. Those are some vampire-ass vampires. During the day, Morgan hunts down these vampires and tries to take out as many as possible. At night, he throws some garlic up on the door and hunkers down for the night. All the while the vampires are outside trying to break in and continuously calling out that they are going to kill him and that he should come outside (considering they lead with the first thing, they really shouldn’t be surprised that they can’t get him to do the second thing). Then some other stuff happens that I can’t really get into here.
Although my memories are hazy as mentioned, Last Man on Earth seems to adhere far closer to the book than I Am Legend did. There are no big fights or action set pieces. There’re no references to Shrek. There’s a dog in this one too but the point here goes to I Am Legend as that dog was far cuter. Though considering what happens maybe that’s actually not a point in their favour. Also I definitely remember this movie’s ending following closer in line to the book’s. I do think in the end, I Am Legend is probably the more entertaining adaptation, but there is a lot to like here as well.
I’ve already touched on the wonder that is Price so I will also highlight the direction and presentation. The movie does a great job portraying the desolate landscape and there’s something fascinating about watching Morgan’s repetitive daily existence play out. The “vampire” creatures are admittedly a little silly as they are just people in not terrific make-up. However there is something a little unsettling about having them repeatedly call out to Morgan. Yes these call-outs are done with laughably bad dubbing and line delivery, but the core idea is disturbing nonetheless. Spending the evening holed up inside and dealing with the inevitability that vampire men are going to try and break in and murder you is no way to live and that idea is sold well here.
I have to keep this review train moving so let’s wrap it up here! Last Man on Earth is certainly not a happy movie and suffers from some primitive make-up and bad dubbing, but its shot well, has a great lead in Price, and presents a lot of interesting ideas. It’s a completely different experience from the more recent I Am Legend and I’m glad we have 2 movies to represent each side of that coin.