Great Bad Movies: "I Am Omega"
"I Am Omega" (2007)
Starring: Mark Dacascos, Geoff Meed, Jennifer Lee Wiggins
Directed by: Griff Furst
It's Bargain Bin time again boys 'n' girls, as I continue to plow through the low-budget treasures found on the "Midnight Horror Collection" 8-pack DVD that's been providing most of my column fodder of late. (This will be the 4th film from that collection that I've reviewed, just in case you're keeping score at home.) Unfortunately, it's been all downhill since I started this sub-set of reviews with Demonic Toys, because the movies in this set keep getting worse as I go along!
Tonight's feature presentation, I Am Omega, marks the fourth time (well, maybe it's more like three-and-a-half times) that Richard Matheson's 1954 classic post-apocalypse sci-fi novel I Am Legend has been adapted for the screen. Matheson's saga of a lone human survivor battling the vampiric remnants of a worldwide plague also inspired 1964's The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, 1971's The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, and of course 2007's I Am Legend with Will Smith. I've never read Matheson's novel, but I have seen all three previous film versions. Though I'm told that each movie took their own set of liberties with the source material, at least they all felt like the screenwriters actually bothered to read the book. I Am Omega, on the other hand, feels like it was written by a guy who simply skimmed the back-cover summary on the paperback while browsing in a bookstore. Knowing that this film is a product of The Asylum - the notorious low budget film studio famed far and wide for their so-called "Mockbusters" (i.e. direct-to-video knockoffs of big studio films), that's probably not far from the truth. I Am Omega was rushed into production as soon as The Asylum got wind of the Smith film and it appeared on store shelves about a month before the release of the "real" movie. As usual for an Asylum production, I Am Omega's production values are cheap, special effects are non-existent, the dialogue is awkward, and plot holes abound... but in a strange way, after you've seen a few of their films all of those things actually become part of the appeal!
Press "Play" to Enter the Asylum...
Don't be fooled by the way-cool artwork on the DVD covers that accompany this article; because no scenes in I Am Omega come close to approximating that level of bad-assery. We open with our hero, "Renchard," having a flashback to the tragic deaths of his wife and son at the hands/claws of a horde of undead. (One immediately wonders how he could be having such a vivid flashback of an event he apparently wasn't present for, but that's neither here nor there.) We soon learn that a mysterious plague has turned much of humanity into ravenous zombies, and Renchard now lives alone in his heavily fortified house in the California hills, where he deals with his grief by going out every day to kick as much zombie ass as possible. We also see him installing time bombs in various strategic positions around his city; eventually it's explained that the city is the site of a major "hive" of zombies and by attaching his bombs to underground gas lines, he hopes to eliminate them all via one big hefty KABOOM.
"Renchard" is played by Mark Dacascos, a martial artist and long time B-movie mainstay whose filmography features such chop-socky, shoot'em up favorites as No Code of Conduct (with a pre-"winning" Charlie Sheen), Only the Strong, Kickboxer 5: The Redemption, and Double Dragon, as well as the short lived TV series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. However, he's probably best known for his portrayal of the sword-swingin' "Chairman" on Food Network's Iron Chef America. For those of us who are most familiar with him presiding over kitchen battles and screaming "ALLEZ CUISINE!" at the top of his lungs, it's something of a shock at first to witness Dacasco's rather impressive nunchuckin' and roundhouse kicking skills. Who knew the Chairman could kick so much ass?
"Let the Battle BEGIN!"
"I'm Pissin' on You, World!"
Renchard's lonely vigil is interrupted by a web-cam contact from the lovely Brianna, which freaks him out since she closely resembles his dead wife (small wonder, since they're both played by Jennifer Lee Wiggins). Brianna explains that she became trapped in the "downtown area" whilst on her way to Antioch, a supposed stronghold of plague survivors. It seems that Brianna is immune to the plague and it is hoped that her blood will be able to create an anti-virus vaccine. Renchard would rather wallow in his misery and ignore the woman's plea for help, but soon two redneck soldier types (Geoff Meed and Ryan Lloyd), who claim to be from Antioch, arrive at his house in a beat up van and force him at gun point into coming along with them on the rescue mission.
Mark "Renchard" Dacascos kickin' butt...
Pow! Bam! Chop!
From there...well, Renchard kicks, shoots, and chops a whole lotta zombies while trying to get Brianna out of the city before his time bombs destroy it, in a series of hilariously cheap chase sequences that seem randomly placed in order to pad out the film's run time. (If you've ever seen an Asylum movie before, you know the type of action I'm talking about.)
Along the way, I could swear that I recognized several locations and sets as being recycled from previous Asylum features (the sewer tunnels appear to be making a return engagement from AVH: Alien Vs. Hunter, and some of the streets and alleyways look like the same ones used in Transmorphers: Fall of Man), which wouldn't surprise me one bit. Eventually the two rednecks reveal that they have nefarious plans of their own for Brianna, which leads to a Final Showdown between them and Renchard in a junkyard outside of the city. Can Renchard save the girl before everything gets blowed up real good? Will the zombie plague be vanquished? Will The Asylum ever make a movie that doesn't use the same hazy brown filter over every scene, which makes the whole film look like it was shot through a dirty camera lens? All these questions - and more! - will be answered if you're unfortunate enough to sit through I Am Omega.
I Am Omega isn't over-the-top enough to rank amongst the Asylum's best work (Sharknado 2 currently holds that honor in my book), but thankfully it's far from their worst. The compact run time (under 90 minutes) moves things along at a brisk enough pace that at least the viewer won't get bored. It isn't much of a film, but I suppose it really wasn't meant to be. The Asylum's "mockbusters" are the cinematic equivalent of those generic store-brand groceries at the supermarket - i.e., cheaper versions of famous brand names for folks who aren't too picky. With that in mind, action junkies might get a kick out of "Omega," but considering that there are three other filmed versions of this story readily available, you'd be better advised to go with any of those unless you have a very high tolerance for B-movie pain.
© 2012 Keith Abt