Just so you know where all this is going, I'm going to be bold and open these observation notes with the declaration that I Am Omega is one of the greatest productions The Asylum has ever pulled off, and remember, that's coming from a guy who loves all these films, good or bad, but this one, this one enters a pantheon reserved for a precious few like Monster and The Beast of Bray Road. This is an especial accomplishment when you remember that I Am Omega isn't just a tie-in to the Will Smith flick I Am Legend, but also to two other incarnations of this story: The Last Man on Earth (1964) with Vincent Price and The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston; all films are based on the novella by Richard Matheson, and the Smith version is the only one to retain the original name. But aside from that, the story here is basically the same as the others, with a few notable exceptions: the life and trials of the supposed last man on Earth (Mark Dacascos, Double Dragon and TV-Crow) in the apocalyptic wake of some pandemic virus fuck-all that turned most of society into ravenous mutant/vampire/zombie predators. As such, for the first half hour or so, the film focuses on MD's day-to-day survival routine, scrounging for supplies and, on this day at least, planting hella explosives around a natural gas pipeline. Two major differences from the other films emerge at this point: one, MD isn't scrounging off a major metropolitan area, so there are no luxuries - no fast cars, no ripe grocery stores or department stores, none of that, calling for a more hand-to-mouth existence set among a rural, desert landscape that helps raise the level of peril; and two, MD isn't an M.D. like the protagonists of other versions, he isn't conveniently the only guy ever who could figure out a cure for all this, he's just an average guy with exceptional fighting skills in a truly shitty situation, mentally fragile, on the verge of some deeper insanity, and so lost in his isolation that when all of a sudden he receives a video message from another survivor, instead of rejoicing, he flips the fuck out and shuts off the power. MD is a man with no hope of finding a way out of this hell, so he just plain has no hope.
Finally, though, he answers the video message and it's - lucky lucky - a hot single chick (Jennifer Lee Wiggins) trapped downtown in need of rescue. She says she's on her way to Antioch, a utopic survivors' compound nearby, and if MD comes for her, he can go with her to salvation. So as it turns out, MD isn't the last man on Earth at all, he's just the last recluse. Long story short, he turns her down, reps from Antioch come looking for him anyway, saying the girl carries the anti-virus in her blood so they gotta get her out, but they also know about the explosives and what MD's planning on blowing up: the whole fucking city. So they need him to use his sewer-layout knowledge to get them to the girl and out again before the city blows. Still MD isn't feeling the whole rescue mission, but in the end, they don't really give him a choice. At all.
So into the sewers they go, and from here on in it's mostly spoilers so I'll cease with the plot reveal but to say the set-up more than delivers, and the action continues to mount all the way to a spectacular ending, the culmination of races against time, explosives, zombies, fraudulent heroes, hope and salvation.
Overall, this feels more like a straight-up remake of The Last Man on Earth than it does a tie-in to I Am Legend. Another key difference - and the one, I believe, that makes this film so exceptional - is its subtle but thorough exploration of the psychosis factor involved, that is, the mental effects of being, well, Omega, the last person on Earth (if only in your mind). MD is not some flawless, wise-cracking action hero here, he is a very disturbed man fighting for his life every waking second, dealing with terror, grief, confusion and rage non-stop. The toll of this would be almost unbearable, and MD does an exceptional job portraying a man in such dire straits. In addition to his superb martial arts skills - employed here in a way that wasn't too obvious or distracting from the story - Dacascos brings an emotional intensity that results in a truly stirring performance, the best of his career for its equal parts power and passion, strength and extreme vulnerability.
His co-star Jennifer Lee Wiggins, a six-time Asylum vet (Shapeshifter, King of the Lost World, Dracula's Curse, Pirates..., and The 9/11 Commission Report) somehow manages to bring a playful sexiness to a distressed role, humanizing the character and making her more empathetic than perhaps she's written. But the highlight of this film, trivia-wise, for me, comes in the form of Geoff Meed, who plays Vincent, the brutish, mohawked Antioch rep, your typical over-trained thug. Not only has Meed performed in five Asylum films - including Airline Disaster and 100 Million B.C. - he's also written three: Universal Soldiers, 6 Guns and I Am Omega. I'm gonna call him the Bo Jackson of The Asylum from now on. You heard it here first.
I Am Omega was directed by Griff Furst, who's done some work with The Asylum before (he directed Universal Soldiers and 100 Million B.C. and had acting roles in Transmorphers and The Hitchhiker), but has also done some work outside the walls that have found mention in these virtual pages (Lake Placid 3, upcoming Swamp Shark). He's the captain at the helm of this film, an intense, scary thriller that stands on it's own feet and that grabbed me from the first scene and never let go. If you've never seen an Asylum film, make this one of the first three you watch.