“I Am Legend” (Well, no, not me personally.)

June 12, 2010 - 11:15 pm 6 Comments

Have you ever wondered why vampires can’t get a tan?

Why don’t they like Italian cooking?

And what would a Muslim vampire do when faced with a cross?

These are just a few poignant questions asked (and, shock and awe, answered) in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which is, at least in my experience, the first modern vampire novel, focusing more on the science of the creature than the supernatural nature of it.

The book, written in 1954, is still amazingly undated to this day.  There is very little within the story that would suggest lead character Robert Neville lives in any era other than this one, disregarding the fact that the setting (the late 1970s) is declared at the header of every part of the novel.  Coming to the story from a perspective which has been drenched in just about ever vampire novel from 1850 forward, with a huge emphasis on the late 1980s, I found the narrative to be smooth and easy to understand.  The only point which I faltered over at first was the difference between the ‘living’ vampires and the ‘dead’ vampires (which ends up being a huge difference, but for the purposes of avoiding a spoiler, I will not mention why).  Then it dawned on me.  I had read Anne Rice’s Campire Chronicles, and the designation between a ‘living’ and ‘dead’ vampire was very much the same in Interview with the Vampire as it was in I Am Legend: ‘dead’ vampires are dead.  They died.  They have thus been buried, and then rose from their graves.  ‘Living’ vampires are simply transitioning from life into undeath without all of that messy potting soil, and as a result, are much more sound of mind and purpose.  I thought it was a cool distinction in Rice’s works and feel no differently now.

The narrative is darkly funny, with a lot of good points you’ve probably wondered about vampires yourself, but simply allowed yourself to dismiss for the sake of suspension of disbelief.  Matheson goes out of his way to explain those little quirks, not limited to but including those first three questions up there.  The answer, wholeheartedly, is SCIENCE (take that, sparkly vampires).  And yet, despite that, the story is emotional, sometimes painful, and rings of truth.  It also sites other popular vampire texts and myths (namely Dracula) which really made it feel possible.

I had not seen (and do not plan to see, despite my inexplicable love for Will Smith) the movie adaptation, as I had heard around the time of the release that they changed the ending.  Now that I know that the ending properly is, I feel like junk-punching whoever made that decision.  I can’t say too much, but I will note how frantic and absolutely apathetic the ending was, and given the events taking place, I mean that in a good way.

In summary, if you like sci-fi, disillusionment, or vampires, and you’ve been living under a rock since 1954 (like I clearly had), read this book.  It only took me about two hours and I would gladly give up another two to read it again.

Speaking of rushed but necessary endings, I saw Splice the other day.  Very weird, kind of cute, and very sad.  Regarding some of the character exploitation in the film, particularly that of the women-type-folk, I’m not sure whether or not I can really say I liked it, but I didn’t dislike it, and it’s certainly a film which will make you think weird thoughts even days after you’ve seen it.  I would probably watch it again.

Uh, that, and Adrien Brody is smokin’. (Technical term.)

Speaking of tings I did the other day, I went to an Ingrid Michaelson show.  This has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to gloat.

That’s all for now; sorry this one took so long to post.  My library books are just about due, so I’m going to skip doing a list of the ones I took out this last trip (I never got around to many of them anyway; life’s been kinda raaaaaahhhhh lately) and start clean next time.  I also may do a review of Theresia, a very bizarre little Nintendo DS which has more gore, dark corners, and puzzles than a Saw movie (also, it doesn’t suck.  Sorry Saw fans, but I can only get behind a formulaic plot, and a very thin one at that, for so long).

6 Responses to ““I Am Legend” (Well, no, not me personally.)”

  1. Matt Says:

    Is anybody actually a Saw fan anymore? I mean, I sat through the first five, mostly because I’m dumb and like a good genre horror if it does neat gore. But they’re not good movies.

    That said, I Am Legend rocks, except for the movie, which sucks. But I can count on one hand the number of Will Smith movies I like.

  2. williamthebloody Says:

    i am legend. YES.
    okay, if youre going to see a film version, see “last man on earth” starring vincent price. it is the closest adaptation to date, of the three that i know, anyway. i still enjoyed will smith’s movie, but only if i look at it as an unrelated sci-fi post-apocalyptic film. it does sorta get my goat that it is the only film version to use the book’s name and yet it is the one LEAST like the book. just invent another name for it in your head. call it anything else and it is a decent movie (i kept on waiting for one of the vampire-things to TALK in will’s movie. they had the perfect opening for it, too! would have been so much better!)
    i have inklings to see Splice. i just keep hearing good things from all over about it. i hear-tell it might even breathe new life into ORIGINAL horror concept films as opposed to remakes and sequels. i’ll see it at least eventually.

  3. Matthew Bradley Says:

    For the record, the second version of I AM LEGEND starred Charlton Heston and was called THE OMEGA MAN, but the previous commentator is correct: THE LAST MAN ON EARTH was the first and by far the most faithful. (To make matters even more confusing, the Will Smith version actually has two different endings…neither one of which matches the novel.) Interested parties can read about all three films—plus the abortive Matheson-scripted Hammer Films version, NIGHT CREATURES—in my forthcoming book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN.

  4. Angelico Napke Says:

    i am legend. YES.okay, if you’re going to see a film version, see “last man on earth” starring vincent price. it is the closest adaptation to date, of the three that i know, anyway. i still enjoyed will smith’s movie, but only if i look at it as an unrelated sci-fi post-apocalyptic film. it does sorta get my goat that it is the only film version to use the book’s name and yet it is the one LEAST like the book. just invent another name for it in your head. call it anything else and it is a decent movie (i kept on waiting for one of the vampire-things to TALK in will’s movie. they had the perfect opening for it, too! would have been so much better!)i have inklings to see Splice. i just keep hearing good things from all over about it. i hear-tell it might even breathe new life into ORIGINAL horror concept films as opposed to remakes and sequels. i’ll see it at least eventually.

    +1

  5. Kristen Says:

    1. I picked up a copy of the short story collection about 8 months ago, and I’d already seen all 3 recognizable filmed versions, over the years. (Yes, I am old.) 2. I LOVE THIS COLLECTION. 3. The ending had much more gravitas to it, that I do not understand why people don’t stick with it? 4. I actually loved the Will Smith film. It makes some very subtle points re: short story themes that I wish hadn’t gotten bollixed with the ending. 5. (and no, I don’t know why I’m numbering. I do that sometimes.) Splice left me… wishing it hadn’t been cut for a sequel. 6. INGRID!!!! *SNOOPYDANCE*

  6. Matthew Bradley Says:

    FYI, RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN is tentatively due out in early October. Of course, you can always pre-order it. :-)

    http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-4216-4

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