Starring Joshua Kennedy, Laura Laureano, Kat Kennedy
Directed by Joshua Kennedy
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)
On a future Earth where a deadly plague has killed most of the population, a scientist who's survived faces nightly attacks from half-dead plague victims he hunts during the day.
I usually only look at classic films of the past in this space, but am making an exception for the work of young filmmaker Joshua Kennedy, a cinephile who enjoys the classics as well, and who has made some terrific films while completing his education at Pace University in New York City. Here's a look at Josh's latest, a homage to Charlton Heston's The Omega Man (full disclosure, I have a brief cameo as one of the plague victims :)):
Joshua Kennedy's love letter to Charlton Heston and his 1971 picture, The Omega Man, based on Richard Matheson's classic novel, I Am Legend, offers what we've come to expect from Josh, in the recapturing of classic cinema moments while using inventive means of getting around his budgetary limitations. In this film, the more expensive vehicles available to Heston are replaced by bicycles, a giant stadium is replaced by a university building, stadium lights are replaced by an A/V projector, and yet the scale of Josh's composition seems comparable to the film he reveres due to his skill as a filmmaker, and his retention of Ron Grainer's original score.
Kennedy plays Heston's role as Robert Neville, and there are moments when he sounds exactly like him, using much of the dialogue from the original screenplay, but he brings his own qualities to the role, including some touches of humor absent from the original picture. His sister Kat gives an admirable performance taking on the mutant cult leader Matthias, played by Anthony Zerbe in the original, and her diction and facial expressiveness could not be better. The makeup effect used to simulate the dilated eyes of the mutants in the original film is very well done, and I'm not sure how it was accomplished, but full credit must go to whoever created it.
Laura Laureano has a nice rapport with Josh and credibly recaptures Rosalind Cash's memorable turn as the infected but still beautiful Lisa, and Kennedy's troupe of friends, classmates, and collaborators add the proper notes as Kat's mutant followers and the early victims of the plague in the film's flashback sequence. Dan Day, Jr. was a fine choice for reprising the newscaster who narrates the flashback, delivering the proper vocal inflection for the part.
Scenes where Neville fires a crossbow with machine gun sound effects are not really miscues, as Josh has told me that his having to use the crossbow had much to do with New York's ban on toy guns. He had to exercise a great deal of patience to find times he could film on deserted New York City streets, but this paid off in some wonderfully memorable shots.
In summary, Kennedy's ode to the original feels as fun for the audience as it must have been for him to recreate one of his favorite movies. In times when many filmmakers deliver dour works, it's very refreshing that Kennedy is able to capture his zest for filmmaking in his pictures with a reverent eye towards the greats of the past.