Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I AM LEGEND Book/Movie Review

Rating...2.5; maybe 3

First let me state that I think Mr. Matheson is a very great writer.  I read several of his short stories and they are quite scary and creepy.  I can see how he inspired Stephen King with these works.  Matheson wrote several episodes for The Twilight Zone, which include one of my favorites, "Nightmare at 20,000 feet".
Yes, a young William Shatner

Several of his books have been adapted to film.  One that completely shocked me, considering he is a horror/sci fi author is his adapted film "Somewhere in Time".  I couldn't believe it when I read it.  I love that film and think it is one of the most beautiful love films.  That's a book and film review for a different day.

Second, I was disappointed with this novel.  Not that he didn't tell a good story, and yes, I am probably too attached to the film, but I didn't find it scary in the least.  There were some great ideas, but I couldn't emotionally attach myself to the character or story.  The dog scenes and Ruth scenes were the best parts, but too short and depressing.   There were many differences between the book and the last adapted film by the same title starring Will Smith.  There were two other films as well: "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price and "The Omega Man".  I have those on my queue to watch so I can't compare those yet.

In the story those infected with the bacteria become vampires.  They can be killed by stakes or thrown in to the fire pit.  In the film they are more feral creatures with limited intelligence but supernatural strength.  They are infected by a virus that was originally used to cure cancer.  They seem to change body structure whereas in the book they still look human and the women try to lure Neville out by showing him their naked bodies.

I think seeing Neville struggle alone for years visually had more of an impression on me than reading about it.  I think Smith did a fantastic job showing how he had tried to make a life for himself, coping and dealing.  When things get too close and the creatures/vampires know that he exists and actively start hunting him down.  when they move the mannequins to the library (or whatever building it was), you seem him start to unravel.  I think Smith portrayed the emotions of Robert Neville story wise extremely well.  That scene in the film scared me to death and was very well done cinematically.  What a turning point!

I realize that Neville was ahead of his time in writing this book (1954) so I do commend him for writing such a great story.  It's just not a favorite of mine.  Honestly I think I just need to reread it and not watch the Smith version until I have done so.

I will say the one thing that I did appreciate in Matheson's story was how he incorporated the title.  In the end, a new society of vampires who can live in the day light have taken over and capture Neville.  He realizes that he is now what they were too him: scary, foreign and terrifying.  Vampires once legend are now the norm and the last man of the human race is now legend.  His last line is simply that, "I am legend."

I guess I have never thought about being a lone survivor of the human race being hunted down by monsters.  That would be horrible and depressing and any sign of life would be welcome.  I will save more for the discussion.

Just to give you an idea of the time and setting, it takes place in South Los Angeles near Compton and Inglewood between 1975 and 1979.  Of course Matheson had no idea what LA would look like at the time since he wrote this in the 50s, so here is a glimpse back in time.  Either way, I can hardly imagine my city being completely desolate with tumbleweeds occasionally blowing down the former busy streets, not a soul to be seen but knowing they are there waiting for nightfall to come out.  That would be equal parts terrifying and lonely.


  1. Well I had trouble getting into this book simply because I'm not really a big horror fan. In other words I'm a scaredy-cat!!! Anyway, this is no excuse because PTSS is all about reading new things but I knew I would have nightmares if I continued reading that book. Hahahaha!

  2. Great, great review/overview LB.

  3. Hi OB!

    Sorry, I am just getting on here now. I was in LA LA land for the weekend. So yeah...I started this book off and on but it wasn't because I was scared. It was the fact that I found this book somewhat blah. Again, like I said, maybe I just need to re-read it. I just got my DVD of The Last Man on Earth. Can't wait to make the comparisons.

  4. OB,

    What is your opinion of the Smith film and the book? Which did you prefer and why?

    1. I really liked Smith's film more than I did the book. For me the book was really scary because I thought this could actually happen. Meaning the book was more believable than the film. Not to take away from the film but the monsters I imagined were scarrier than what I saw in the film. Does that make sense?

  5. Holy guacamole, I am finally back. I had dog-eared some pages that I wanted to share and finally, with kids still sleeping this morning, I can post. :)

    Pg. 79--Robert discusses his "increased nostalgic preoccupation" with the past. I would think that in these circumstances, as the only being on earth that you know about, living in the past would be quite natural. I find myself nostalgically preoccupied and I live in a crowded world with a busy life trying to take care of a husband, house, 3 kids, and myself, plus finding ways to help out others as well. I find that nostalgia gives me a sense of peace and security. I look back and find it comforting to recall certain events or things from the past when I'm really stressed out. I can only assume that someone like Neville, being preyed upon continuously, would find comfort as well in the past.

    1. What I really liked in the film is how Neville creates a community for himself out of manequins as a way to cope. When u think about it as kids we do the same thing when playing with dolls etc.. Then when we get older we loose that sense of adventure. Now I'm not encouragng adults playing with dolls but I do wonder what do we replace it with? Meaning as adults how do we challenge our imagination?

  6. Pg 104--Neville discovers a dog who slooooowly finds his way to Neville's food dish and side. I love how Matheson writes "He had such a terrible yearning to love something again, and the dog was such a beautifully ugly dog." Eventually the dog comes and goes, feeling safe with Neville, and Robert is thrilled. However, then one day the dog doesn't show up. Neville is a wreck because he's emotionally attached to this creature. Three days later the dog shows up and it's obvious he's been infected with the vampire bacteria. "Quickly Neville sat down on the porch steps and stayed there trembling. Oh no, he thought in anguish, oh, God, no."

    First, the part about loving someone/something: it's instinctual and whether we are completely and physically alone, or in the throws of a crowded home, school, city, etc...we all need to give love and to feel it returned. And we all remember and know what it feels like when we have finally found someone or something to love. Before I had a boyfriend, my love relationship was with singing and dancing. I still have that love, but now I've been able to split that love with my family.

    Second, Oh the anguish when someone you love falls ill or is dying! It's like having your insides yanked out and trampled on and left on the roadside. Ok, maybe not for you, but that's how I've felt it. And for Robert that dog was a lifeline he had been desperate for and now this!

    1. "Oh the anguish when someone you love falls ill or is dying! It's like having your insides yanked out and trampled on and left on the roadside. Ok, maybe not for you, but that's how I've felt it. And for Robert that dog was a lifeline he had been desperate for and now this!"

      Yes, to loose someone close be it family, friends or a pet is very difficult. When I was 10 I use to rescue abused dogs and give them away. Anyway, one abused dog I kept and after 3 months he became the best watch dog and friend a girl could have until he was killed by my drunk driving neighbor and I haven't had a dog sense. Yeah! I know I need to move on but its easier said then done. I had birds after my dog and they either died or was given away. Yet, I don't know there was something about that dog. His name was "big man" because he was a little guy who was scared of his own shadow when I got him.I thought by calling him "big man" it would build his confidence and boy did it. He would try and mount my brothers dog who was twice his size. Hahaha! Where am I going with this? LOL! Yes, ITA it can be difficult to loose someone.

    2. Let me also add. What makes it difficult to move on is how you lost them. Meaning if it was unexpected or expected. Although still difficult but If its expected u have time to sorta prepare yourselfIMO.

  7. Short stories at the back of my book I would highly recommend.

    Buried Talents--could easily see as a Twilight Zone episode
    The Near Departed---creepy! Gave me chills at the end
    Prey---Holy crap, freaked me out. Don't read alone in the dark at 2:30 in the AM!
    Mad House--ouch is all I've got.
    From Person to Person---great example of the subconcious mind trying to break free.