Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Last Man on Earth is first choice for good horror

Plenty of truly awful horror movies made their way to theatres in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Killer Shrews offered "the wildest of flesh eaters." The Giant Gila Monster presented "an amazing Kong-like monster." Promises. Promises.

Horror films with intelligence, along with some good chills, were truly a rare commodity. Enter The Last Man on Earth, a 1964 Italian release with genre great Vincent Price. This film isn't great, but it is good and worth a look.

Price is Robert Morgan, an American scientist who has survived a worldwide plague that has killed millions, including his own wife and daughter.

Three years have passed since humanity was wiped out. That leaves Morgan and the undead, a cross between zombies and vampires, in an unnamed American city.

"Another day to live through. Better get started," says Morgan near the black and white film's start.

He kills vampires during the day. They try to bust into his home at night. "Morgan, we're going to kill you," one promises as he and his gang try, yet again, to dispatch him from the living. Garlic and mirrors posted outside the home help keep the ghouls at bay.

There's hope for Morgan when he meets a woman during daylight. But, and this is where the film gets interesting from a thinking perspective, danger associated with her might be even worse than what the undead propose.

Don't expect any serious jolts when watching The Last Man on Earth. But there are some eerie scenes including a flaming pit where the plague victims are brought and the unexpected return of one of Morgan's loved ones.

Some of the dialogue wasn't in synch in the Madacy Entertainment Group DVD I viewed. That was a little distracting, but didn't last long. The film's score is a little overbearing at times too, but I found that problem peaked early on.

The film is based on a work by Richard Matheson, who also wrote scripts for 16 episodes of the original Twilight Zone including the classic Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

A tagline, "alone among the crawling creatures of evil that made the night hideous with their inhuman craving!", is a little rich. These undead pretty much suck at putting a real scare in Morgan's mortality.

Those petty points aside, and with current-day concerns such as SARS and an influenza pandemic, The Last Man on Earth is still worth a look.

Ranking: 7/10

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