Originally released in 2007 to take advantage of the anticipated Will Smith blockbuster I Am Legend (based on the Richard Matheson book, which previously inspired films like The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and The Omega Man with Charlton Heston), I Am Omega borrows from Matheson’s source material and, like George Romero did in Night of the Living Dead, replaces vampires with zombies. Although I Am Omega begins with some promise, it falls apart at the halfway point. Consequently, the film will likely disappoint most viewers, principally because of the promise held during the first half of the feature.
The film centers on the character of Renchard (Mark Dacascos, best known as the “Chairman” in the television series Iron Chef America and also in Hawaii 5-0), a former member of the Special Forces who has survived the initial wave of the zombie apocalypse. Sadly, Renchard was away when the first wave of zombies struck, and thus was unable to defend his wife and child, both of whom perished. Isolated, alone, and stricken with bouts of uncontrolled depression, Renchard nevertheless continues his fight against the zombies, undead humans that have mutated in strange ways to provide them with enhanced strength and some depth of cunning.
The first half of the movie focuses on Renchard’s day-to-day survival. The resultant portrait is startling and moving. Renchard is a simple but emotionally layered man. Tempered to bury his emotions, he functions well enough most of the time, but the grief he feels over the loss of his family tears at his guts constantly, so much so that not even the pills he knocks down can prevent his delusions and fits of depression. Renchard does have a plan to rid his quadrant of zombies: He plans to destroy the city by blowing up its gas mains. This effort takes time and is often dangerous, as he systematically sets up explosives grid by grid.
At times engrossing and sometimes off-putting (in a good way), the first part of I Am Omega is suddenly disrupted when Renchard receives an emergency transmission over the Internet (on his laptop, no less) from a girl named Brianna (Jennifer Lee Wiggens). Several days later, two dudes in a van suddenly show up at Renchard’s compound. Apparently, they also received the transmission and have been sent by a nearby survivalist compound to rescue Brianna, as her blood could be the source of a possible cure against the zombie epidemic. Two soldiers—Vincent (Geoff Meed, who is also responsible for the script) and Mike (Ryan Lloyd)—convince a reluctant Renchard to join them on the rescue mission.
The remainder of the film falls into a typical low-budget action yarn, with one-liners bantered about (I hear “compadre” one more time and I am going medieval) and action choreography setting the stage for some zombie smashing. There are a couple of twists along the way, but these twists do not work very well and add nothing to the story. There’s a somewhat happy (and even hopeful) ending, but it is far from satisfactory.
Writer Geoff Meed (who was a stuntman before moving into acting and writing) is pretty good at his craft, as the first part of I am Omega captures the gritty nature of surviving in a post-apocalyptic work run amok with infected and mutated creatures (special effects are good but a little too repetitive when it comes to the makeup). I Am Omega is also a solid homage to Matheson’s I Am Legend, far outdoing the lackluster Smith version and giving several nods to Price’s performance in The Last Man on Earth. However, Meed drops the ball and gets downright lazy at the halfway point. Moreover, his character of Vincent is perhaps the weakest on the roster.
Directed with some seriousness by Griff Furst (Arachnoquake, Lake Placid 3, and the upcoming Ghost Shark), I Am Omega receives a passing grade because of its first half, as hardcore zombie fans and aficionados of survival films will not be disappointed in the events and performance of Mark Dacascos. Just be warned that disappointment is around the corner once the halfway mark is passed.
I Am Omega is one of several films produced by a company known as Asylum, which specializes in creating low-budget features that take advantage of larger Hollywood fare. For example, I Am Omega was released to take advantage of viewers going out to see Smith’s I Am Legend. The company also released Transmorphers to take advantage of Transformers, Alien Origin to exploit Prometheus, and American Warships to capitalize on Battleship.