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On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.
A 1954 novel by Richard Matheson about Robert Neville, the sole survivor of a plague who by day hunts down the infected, now Vampire Zombies and by night is hunted by them in 1970's Los Angeles. Essentially the Ur Example of the Zombie Apocalypse genre, though it predates that particular usage of the word "zombie" by 28 years or so. (It was first used in Dawn of the Dead.)
It was adapted to film three different times:
- The Last Man On Earth (1964) — starring Vincent Price.
- The Omega Man (1971) — starring Charlton Heston.
- I Am Legend (2007) — starring Will Smith.
None of these movie adaptations used the ending of the original novel - and only the first one is even close to rest of the story.
- Apocalypse How: Around level 3 or 4, depending on how many types of animals aren't affected by the bacteria. The revelation of coping partial vampires might push it back to level 2. Maybe
- Becoming the Mask: Ruth.
- Doing in the Wizard: The mythological traits of vampirism are all defined as either caused by the vampirus bacillum, or as a psychological reaction to the infected's realizing they've become a creature out of a pulp novel. On one occasion, Neville observes a vampire climbing a lamppost and jumping off, and presumes that the individual believed itself to be able to turn into a bat.
- Downer Ending: Neville, due to killing partial vampires, is about to be executed. The spy he fell in love with gives him a suicide pill to end his misery.
- Ghost City: Los Angeles.
- Good All Along
- He Who Fights Monsters: Neville eventually discovers that some of the infected people have discovered a means of suppressing more dangerous effects of the vampire bacteria, and that many of the vampires he's been killing during his daytime hunts were innocent people. He's pretty much their monster of legend, thus the title.
- Immune to Bullets: The dead vampires (ones not infected while alive) have this, due to their wounds healing instantaneously, whereas stakes (and other impalings) keep the wound open.
- Flashbacks: This time showing how his wife succumbed to the infection, and forced to drive to a government bonfire to burn his dead daughter.
- Neon Sign Hideout: Played for drama for a change. Every vampire in LA knows where the last normal human in the city lives, so each dusk the vampires start flocking around Neville's house.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Ominous classical music more like. Look up the full names to the music Neville plays to keep his mind off the vampires; Scönberg Transfigured Night, The Year of the Plague, Bernstein Symphony No. 2 (The Age of Anxiety), Schubert Symphony No. 4 (Tragic)... Emphasis on ominous, as he uses the music to drown out the hell the vampires break loose outside his house every night.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Neville seems to adopt this stance towards his vampirised neighbor, even if there isn't anyone else out there to defeat him. When the partial vampires get to him first, Neville naturally doesn't take it very well.
- Our Vampires Are Different: It's stated the vampires are dumb. Not zombie-dumb, but still idiots.
- Sanity Slippage: Neville gets dangerously close to tossing himself to the vampires several times.
- Staking the Loved One: In the book, Neville has to do this to his wife after she had already died from the plague and he buried her body because he couldn't bear to burn her like he had to do to his daughter. She then comes back as a vampire trying to kill him and he has to kill her all over again, this time presumably by staking
- Survivor Guilt: He has it worse than Will Smith, to the point of suffering several breakdowns.
- There Is Another: Subverted. When Ruth comes along, it appears that Neville might not be the only unaffected person still alive...And then it turns out that Ruth is The Mole for the partial vampires sent to spy on his defenses.
- Title Drop: At the very end, no less.
- Took a Level In Badass: After a modest Time Skip, Neville goes from being a normal guy who happens to be immune to the vampire bacteria and copes with alcohol to a muscled vampire-slaying beard-toting badass. in that time he's killed numerous partial vampires and figured out their weaknesses and origin. Though his social skills have gone out the window from so many years of not talking to anyone. He also starts going Jack Bauer on his neighbor, what with the chair and the Torah. Justified in the 2007 film, by making him a trained military officer.
- Vampire Hunter: Guess who.
- Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Turns out Neville has been killing partially-infected vampires alongside fully-infected ones, and is hunted down and executed for this. Oops.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: When he comes across an apparently unaffected dog out in the sun, Neville practically gets taken over with Cuteness Proximity as he plans to win over the thing and keep it as a pet. It doesn't end well.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Pretty much the Ur Example, despite being written fourteen years before the modern pop culture zombie was introduced.