Friday, June 08, 2007


Richard Matheson's novella "I am Legend" is one of those stories I read at just the right age for it to stick with me in every unsettling detail. The story tracks Robert Neville, the lone survivor in a world where some unknown plague has left the population as vampires. "Legend" is a perfect example of what I like to call "Idea Horror," that is, it's less focused on gore and viscera than it is on the underlying feeling of suspense and the slowly unfurling tension of its situation (no surprise, given Matheson's Twilight Zone pedigree).

It's always been surprising to me that Hollywood never got around to doing a good movie version of the story. I emphasise the word "good," as they've tried twice already with mixed results -- a low-budget '60s Vincent Price shlocker called The Last Man on Earth, and a more well-known Charlton Heston starrer from the '70s entitled The Omega Man. Though each has its interesting point, especially the Heston one, neither version quite got what made the Matheson story work.

An updated adaptation of the project has been kicking around Hollywood for several years now, with Ridley Scott, Michael Bay, and Arnold Schwarzenegger all attached at various points, all ultimately dropping out for one reason or another. The version of I Am Legend that finally hits screens at the end of the year is directed by Constantine helmer Francis Lawrence and stars Will Smith as Neville, with a script from Da Vinci Code and Batman & Robin scribe Akiva Goldsman (uh oh...).

Based on this just-released teaser, I can't say for sure whether this version will get Matheson any better than the others, but here's hoping.

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