Thursday, November 8, 2012

'I Am Omega' is better than you might expect

I am Omega (2007)
Starring: Mark Dacasos, Jennifer Lee Wiggins, Jeff Meed, and Ryan Lloyd
Director: Griff Furst
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A man believing himself to be the only survivor of a zombie apocalypse (Dacassos) is slowly being driven insane by the loneliness while working on a project that will completely destroy a city that has become a hive of zombies. One day, he receives a message from another survivor (Wiggins) on his computer. She claims to be alive and hiding in the city. He believes he is hallucinating, until two other survivors (Lloyd and Meed) show up at his fortified hide-out, claiming they are on a mission to rescue the trapped girl.

"I Am Oemga" is yet another film by modern-day exploitation film company The Asylum that was designed to earn extra cash through would-be viewers confusing it with "I Am Legend" (which was released in theaters around this debuted on DVD), and perhaps even the older films "The Omega Man" and "Last Man on Earth."

While I am amused by The Asylum keeping a time-honored tradition alive, and the intentional effort to cause confusion is a little less sleazy than other examples of this in their catalog--this film was inspired by/loosely based on the same source that brought us the other three films, a Richard Matheson novel--I don't think they did the film itself any favors in this case.

As a stand-alone post-apocalyptic zombie movie, "I Am Omega" is a superior effort to many of the other films in the marketplace. In some respects, it's even better than the Will Smith vehicle it was hoping to sponge viewers off, as its low budget actually creates a grittier and grimier air than the CG-overkill of the big budget movie. Further, the zombies and other enemies our hero has to deal with in this film are nowhere near as silly as the antagonists in the Smith vehicle. Unfortunately, because The Asylum is in the business of doing direct-to-DVD shoddy, cash-grab rip-offs of big studio releases, when they deliver something decent, it is easily dismissed sight unseen by much of its potential audience.

And this is a shame, because given the willingness of zombie fans to put up with the worst kind of lazy crap in the films watch, I think they'd find a lot to enjoy here.

In addition to mostly well-chosen locations and well-dressed sets, the film is elevated by a surprisingly effective performances--surprising for a film like this--by the four stars. Mark Dacasos and Jennifer Lee Wiggins are particularly effective in the way they play their characters with relative restraint, while Geoff Meed (who also wrote the film) has a great turn as a survivalist who is crazier than Dascasos's character could ever become.

Further praise must also be offered to the make-up artists who created scary looking zombies on their shoe-string budget, and to the director and cinematographer who show a better sense of how to stage and film action scenes those who have worked on movies with one thousand time the budget and time resources that people working for The Asylum have.

Now, I'm not trying to say this is a great movie. There are many flaws, not the least of which is a boring flashback sequence that wastes time on establishing Our Hero as a "tortured soul" when it should have given us a reason for the zombie apocalypse, or maybe some REAL background on who he is, where he's come from, and why he's decided to blow up the city he's targeted. There are also a few plot-holes so massive that you could drive a dump truck full of zombies through them, the worst of them relating relating to a key element of the film's climax.

In balance, however, there are far worse zombie movies that you could waste your time on. If you dismissed this one because of its source, maybe you should take another look before checking you kill more brain cells with that Italian thing from the '80s. It's included in several DVD multi-movie packs, so you can get it cheap. I recommend "Midnight Horror Collection 8 Movie Pack Vol. 1", because it also includes decent films like "Below" and "Demonic Toys", "Meridian", and the original "Prom Night" with Jamie Lee Curtis.

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