“I am Legend”. Perhaps the best novella ever written, Richard Matheson’s chronicle of one man’s day to day existence fighting a world full of vampires is suspenseful, thoughtful and always engrossing. Where Matheson’s prose leapt off the page the film adaptation “The Last Man on Earth” suffered. While a cult classic that should be sought out by true horror fans, the film version could never achieve the overall impact of the book based on one key factor: The protagonist is alone for most of the story. Where inner thought and conflict could be shown eloquently on the page, Vincent Price’s near constant voiceover narration is clunky and slows the film down. This is also the sad fate of John Erick Dowdle’s “The Dry Spell” which may win the record for most voiceover narration.
Whereas the excessive exposition was juggled with vampire slaying in “The Last Man on Earth”, “The Dry Spell” has a much less engaging premise in the struggle of Josey (Chip Godwin) to have sex again. Playing out more like an extended skit from the last half hour of Saturday Night Live than an actual film, Josey reiterates over and over and over again what a loser he is in love. Instead of showing the audience through build up of clever dialogue and acting how unsuccessful Josey is, the film has Josey tell us and supply a few images to support the claim. There is some direct character interaction but the ratio to the amount of time spent listening to Josey drone on and on is grossly disproportional. We see him strike out picking up girls, we see him flounder around in past relationships, we even see him attempt to reconcile with the “one that got away” but all of these scenes are over just as soon as they have begun, they play out as an endless string of punch lines without the jokes to set them up.
Perhaps scariest of all is the character of Josey, since the film is stream of consciousness through his eyes it could be redeemed if the audience were to care for him. However after seeing what a creep he is to new people he meets and how spineless he was in past relationships the audience might actually begin to root against him. He cries out constantly for love but does nothing to deserve it. Chip Godwin does the best he can with this character but truth be told not even Laurence Olivier could make Josey likeable.
The film is so scattershot that most of the humor and any pathos is removed. That is not to say there are not funny moments (Josey and the artist have more meaningful sex by poking each other with safety pins, he is also tricked into being a stripper for a divorce party where the women fire slingshots at him) but they are lost in the endless self-pity on display. As a five minute piece this tone could have worked but at over an hour Josey’s whining goes on for far too long.
“The Dry Spell” is equitable with being stuck at a bar with an acquaintance who has just been dumped and wants to talk, while at first you try and be supportive by the time an hour has passed you just want to go home.