Director – Miguel Ángel Vivas
Cast – Matthew Fox, Jeffrey Donovan, Quinn McColgan, Valeria Vereau, Clara Lago
Release Year – 2015
Reviewed by John of the Dead
A friend of mine told me about this piece, saying that it was more than just the usual post-apocalyptic / zombie film. He was right. From director Miguel Angel Vivas, who gave us the incredible Spanish film Kidnapped, Extinction is a flick that breathes new life into the convoluted sub-genres I just mentioned.
Once friends who survived the zombie apocalypse 9 years prior, Patrick (Jeffrey Donovan) and Jack (Matthew Fox) are neighbors surviving in the frozen post-apocalyptic Earth. Separated by hatred, they live in fortified homes miles from the nearest empty city. With no signs of outside life – both human and zombie – there is little to do aside from hunting/scavenging for food and enjoying their company. Jeffrey has his daughter Lu, and Jack has his dog. After nearly a decade of solitude, the outside world finally makes contact with them…and it’s not the humans. The zombies that survived the cold have undergone adaptations to make them a superior force to deal with. If they wish to survive the impending onslaught, these sworn enemies are going to have to become old friends again.
The story, co-written by Miguel Angel Vivas and Alberto Marini (Sleep Tight, Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt), this story is adapted from a novel by Juan de Dios Garduno. The opening sequence gives us a look into the events that occurred when the initial zombie apocalypse hit. Chaos reigned, and somehow Patrick, Jack, and Lu survived, while Lu’s mother did not. Fast-forward nine years and Earth is a very different planet. It looks just like it did in The Day After Tomorrow – enveloped in snow and lacking signs of life. Desperation has hit the survivors, as they must rely on opportunistic hunting/gathering to survive. That means they must eat animals that we have romanticized. The first act is typical, and merely introduces the characters and the lives they lead. It is obvious that Patrick and Jack are two warring parties, with Patrick as the lead aggressor, but we are not told why until much later in the film. They have a heated past over a very unfortunate event, and forgiveness is yet to be an option.
Character-play is probably the largest driving factor in the story. I was surprised at the level of drama seen here. It isn’t an overly dramatic film, but I will say that the zombie element takes a backseat to the human social perspective. Don’t get me wrong though. Vivas and Marini included plenty of horror. We get our first look at the adapted zombie about 28 minutes in. 7 minutes later, it delivers its first frontal attack. The look was pretty interesting, and it definitely did not come off as the typical brain-dead zombies we are used to seeing. This one had more of a creature look to it, and creepily moved on all fours. From then on out we have equal parts drama and horror, until the final act manifests into a huge final sequence I heavily enjoyed.
I have mad respect for director Miguel Angel Vivas. After Kidnapped I knew this guy would be a heavy hitter in the genre. While Extinction doesn’t hit like his previous effort, it is another solid film under his belt. To start, his locations allowed me to envelop myself into the film. In this survival type films I always put myself into the protagonists’ shoes and think what I would do to survive said situations. The solemn location, a small town named Harmony, is the perfect setting for a flick like this. Our two parties are far from the nearest big city, which they only go to when they need to gather supplies. While they have lived at peace for quite some time, if any trouble were to arise, they’d have nobody but each other to rely on, if they even allow for that. The barren snow-capped landscape provided me with an awe-inducing reaction, while at the same time it kept a constant sense of dread looming over. Then, the creatures upped the ante. I really dug their look. Even more so, I really enjoyed the use of practical effects. There are a few scenes where CGI just had to be used because they would have been near impossible to complete with live-action effects. Aside from this, Vivas used live creatures and live gore for the extreme majority of the effort. His execution of the scare scenes was intense, keeping me on the edge of my seat for the final 30 or so minutes. Clocking in at 112 minutes, he paced the film very well, and thanks to good execution, kept my attention the entire time. I am a big fan of actors Jeffrey Donovan and Michael Fox, but I do not believe this to be near their best work. I simply like Donovan because of the typical smartass he is, and I after Lost I was re-introduced to Fox with his incredible effort in Bone Tomahawk – where he even stole the show from the iconic Kurt Russell. They were fine in this film, just don’t expect top performances despite this being a character piece.
Overall, Extinction is a solid effort that makes for one of the better apocalypse / zombie films of recent years. Great execution makes this near two-hour piece a smooth ride that will leave you with a few solid jolts and an appreciation for an expert blend of two horror sub-genres that have become quite cliché these days.