NOVEMBER 25, 2011
A few minutes into I Am Omega, I wondered if the location that the main character had made into his home/fortress was on the same property that parts of Hatchet II were filmed on, in Santa Clarita. The layout and look of the buildings (more like glorified shacks) were quite similar, and it's a frequently used locale, so it must be pretty cheap (i.e. something that The Asylum could afford). I never did learn for sure (only that Santa Clarita was indeed a shooting location for this film), but either way, the two films have almost identical fonts on the end credits!!! Weird.
Anyway, for an Asylum "mockbuster" it's pretty good. While I don't doubt that it was quickly made in order to cash in on its big budget cousin (I Am Legend, obviously), it doesn't seem to be made up on the spot like Paranormal Entity and Monster were. Someone clearly actually wrote this thing; if not a whole screenplay at least a very detailed treatment must have been used for the actors to go by. Conversations are rare, but when they occur they have some semblance of structure, instead of lousy actors trying to improvise (which usually just results in people saying the same thing over and over). Only in its final scenes does it start to feel like they were just tossing ideas and subplots around at random - why does one character suddenly decide to engage in proxy necrophilia, pushing his buddy's corpse on the lady parts of our heroine? Furthermore, why does it serve as the finale of this zombie movie? Shouldn't there be, er, zombies around, somewhere?
The funny thing is that this problem exists in all versions of I Am Legend, even the original source novel: the first act is always the best; the third the weakest. Surely no one (or at least, I) didn't expect the Asylum version to be the first to figure out how to end this story in a way that fully satisfies, so I can't get on its case too much for not sticking the landing. Maybe someday someone will figure it out, but I'm not holding my breath.
Another thing I found amusing: this movie requires you to know the story that they are ripping off. Without any knowledge of Matheson's story or any of the previous film versions, you'd probably be pretty confused as to what exactly is going on for the first 45 minutes or so. Apart from a few random shots of an empty downtown LA (something you can see pretty much any weekend morning anyway), there is nothing to indicate that the world has been taken over by mutant zombies, and/or that our hero (Mark Dacascos) is one of the few people left alive. If you're ignorant to the "Legend" story, then this movie comes across more as the tale of a weird hermit who occasionally ventures out into the mountainous area near his home and plants bombs for some reason, and every now and then talks to a corpse that he may have killed himself for all we know. It's not until the end of the second act, when he goes into the city with a couple other guys on a rescue mission, that the whole "dead world" concept is made fully clear. And actually you're still sort of filling in blanks yourself at this point, it's just not AS impenetrable.
As for the bombs, you got me. He's setting them around the city right above gas lines, which are all helpfully marked by pieces of paper taped to nearby poles that read "NO DIGGING - GAS LINE". That much makes (horror movie) sense, but why he's doing it in the first place is a bit vague. Especially when he doesn't appear to be in any serious danger where he's at - he's got a well protected place to live, plenty of books to read, a running fridge, and even some beer! So why destroy the entire city, exactly? If Los Angeles was some sort of quarantined area and the rest of the state was fine, I guess it would make some sense, but as far as we know the entire country (world?) has been overrun by this unexplained event, so what good does blowing up the City of Angels do anyway?
I also wonder when he set the bombs in the Valley or even Hollywood, since he only sets one a day and they're all timed to go off at once - he'd have to have started like 2 years before and been a really good estimator to set those first few timers properly. How many hours in a year? Then again the whole countdown angle is remarkably botched - at one point we see a bomb actually counting UP as he races out of the city. Why they didn't just work in that he had to manually set them all off at once (Armageddon style!) is beyond me, but this lovingly stupid approach provided some entertainment value, so thanks for that.
Also thanks for hiring Mark Dacascos to play the hero (Richard instead of Robert), who can at least make the fight scenes a little more interesting. There never seems to be more than 2-3 zombies on-screen at once, and he takes care of most of them fairly quickly with a few gunshots, so the action is pretty dull for the most part. But every now and then he'll kick them around a bit before shooting them. This of course makes the whole "blow up the city" angle even sillier - he can take care of himself easily and doesn't seem to be too worried about the zombie "threat" anyway. Was he just bored? Does he plan to blow up the entire country city by city?
That's not even the silliest plot hole. The whole rescue mission makes zero sense, as the other guy (Geoff Meed, who also wrote the film) apparently plans to kill the girl anyway. So why even bother trying to rescue her? She's alone in a city overrun by zombies, and the city is going to blow up anyway (something Meed knows about). Wouldn't it be easier to just leave her there to die? Richard had no interest in her until they forced him to help (by blowing up his house, something he has zero reaction to) - did they actually just do all of this to rape her?
The direction can be as baffling as the writing at some points. Closeups of weapons firing rarely match the wide shots, particularly when he runs down a street shooting zombies - the closeups are of a non-moving individual firing a different weapon. Richard also flashes back to ancient Super 8 footage of his wife and son, even though he has a modern laptop that clearly sets the film in the present day. I also laughed out loud when Richard takes a piss while standing in the desert - they cut to a low angle of his legs, but we see no stream hitting the ground in front of him. So is he peeing on his own pants/shoes? Luckily I know the director got better: it's Griff Furst, the same guy who made Mask Maker. I don't know if he just wasn't trying very hard here or wasn't given the time/money to do things properly (like hand Dacascos a squeeze bottle filled with Mountain Dew to squeeze above the camera line), but it's good to know he was able to graduate from this sort of junk.
And to be fair, Furst DOES put some effort into the proceedings, particularly with a cool long tracking shot that goes from an interior closeup to an exterior high angle of the house, and a few other flourishes. And the stuff with Dacascos hallucinating and going crazy is genuinely decent - I almost have to wonder why they didn't stick with that (cheaper) stuff instead of trying to simulate big action that they couldn't afford.
But really, who cares? The movie came out on DVD in time for the theatrical release of Will Smith's film, and that's all that matters. Luckily it's fairly entertaining in its own clumsy way for the most part, and it only cost me 25 cents (the four pack was among the 99 cent DVDs at this morning's Black Friday sale at Best Buy - I also scored the awesome Walk Hard for the same price!). Hopefully the other films on the set will be as equally "eh, fine" and thus justify their cost. I could have bought a donut instead of these things!
What say you?