Opening Dec. 14th is I Am Legend, the satisfying and often intensely scary version of Richard Matheson’s novel. Will Smith plays soldier/scientist Robert Neville, the last dude on earth, living in New York City after a virus wipes open everyone save carnivorous mutated dark walkers who shun daylight and come out at night looking for food. The shots of a desolate New York with weeds and wild deers running down major avenues is hauntingly effective, and Will Smith is quite affecting trying to still find a cure for the virus as he wanders the apocalyptic landscape with his only companion, his dog, and makes conversation with mannequins he has erected at the local video store.

Filmed twice before, the first, The Last Man on Earth (1961), starred Vincent Price which was minimalist and occasionally creepy. One can see the early foreshadowing of Night of the Living Dead with the nighttime attacks on his boarded-up house. The Omega Man (1971) was a dismal Charlton Heston-starring clunker, where the mutants named themselves the “Family” (not unlike the Manson’s) and Heston watched Woodstock repeatedly in an abandoned theater. The third time’s the charm, and director Francis Lawrence (Constantine) keeps the pace brisk and exciting and the creatures frighteningly feral (someone obviously did their homework by watching The Descent). I could have done without the God and Bob Marley bits at the end, but I think they fit in with the novel’s creator Richard Matheson, who also wrote The Incredible Shrinking Man and was big on a lone survivor facing existential dread.