I Am Legend

Talk about your mixed-up history. I Am Legend, the story of the last man on Earth after a viral plague transforms humans into the undead, first appeared as a novel with the same name written by the legendary Richard Matheson way back in 1954. It was followed by a Vincent Price movie, Last Man on Earth, in 1964, and then another movie, The Omega Man, starring none other than Charlton Heston, post-Moses and pre Apes, in 1971. Then and only then came Will Smith’s I am Legend, in 2007.

The thing is, in the original novel and the first two movies, the “undead” in question were vampires, and ones that retained at least some of their human consciousness – albeit an evil consciousness, but still. In the book and the first movie, they were very close to classic vampires, bloodsuckers afraid of the light; Matheson’s then-brand-new innovation was to make them the product of a virus, not something supernatural (a notion that’s so commonplace now it’s a cliché.). In the Heston version, they looked like albino crazies with a penchant for wraparound sunglasses and automatic weapons, but still – vampires. Then, for some reason, Smith’s version converted them to Rage-like swarms of barely humanoid super-fast… well, zombies. Thus its inclusion here, despite its vampiric origins.

The battle scenes, especially Smith’s entrapment in an apartment building and the big Brooklyn Bridge destruction scene, redeems an otherwise muddled script that insists on shoehorning in the “I am the only one with the cure” messiah shtick, which made a lot more sense in the original book and film. But its huge commercial success and the weird but undeniable zombie-turn makes it a strong contender for you and your zomfan’s shelf. If you or yours truly dig the fast zombie subgenre of 28 Days Later and World War Z, then this is a strong next choice.