Extinction… or is it?
Jeffrey Donovan and Matthew Fox play feuding survivors in a frigid tale set in a post-zombie apocalypse.
by TS Alan
The film opens with two buses filled with survivors heading to the military held town of Harmony. Just short of their destination the lead bus stops, halting the small convoy. The soldiers aboard the second bus radio the first to find out what the problem is. When there is no response a soldier goes to investigate, but disappears. Another follows and is seized by one of the raging infected. Then all hell breaks loose. Jack (Jeffrey Donovan), Patrick (Matthew Fox) and his wife Emma (Valeria Vereau) with their infant daughter Lu, make it off the bus but in their escape from the carnage Emma is bitten.
Flash forward nine years. For some apparent reason the world is in a perpetually frozen, wintry state. The infected have perished, but the isolation of their snowbound world, the constant fear of the unknown, and the strife of survival has taken its toll on both Jack and Patrick, who are now enemies but live next door to each another; separated by tall fences and their hatred for one another. Lu (Quinn McColgan) is a curious and precocious young girl who lives with Jack, and has no idea that the man living next door is her real father. She is bored and obstinate at times, never having been more than a few feet from her own yard. She cannot understand her father’s hatred for the man next door nor why if all the “monsters” are all dead that they must live behind locked doors.
Through a series of flashbacks we discover that Emma did not die from the bite wound she suffered but died differently several months later. Also revealed is why Lu lives with Jack, and why there is so much hatred between the two former friends, especially from Jack.
Jack is not a very good survivor or provider for his adopted daughter. Their food stocks are nearly depleted and he refuses to take Lu with him on scavenging trips, so he doesn’t wander too far from the homestead, which is a determinant in his search for food. Opposite is Patrick, whose cupboards are fully stocked and he has fresh meat, courtesy of a wandering horse. He also has a HAM radio system from which he broadcasts a nightly radio show of music and talk, hoping he will make contact with other survivors. On an outing, Patrick soon discovers that they are not the sole survivors, the infected have survived and evolved with thick skin and ultra sensitive ears for hunting to compensate for their blindness. Patrick eventually captures the lone creature and holds it captive outside on a chain like a wild pet (yeah, always a good idea!), and discovers it has the ability to quickly heal itself.
Jack realizes for Lu’s sake he must set aside his animosity toward Patrick and band together in hopes of surviving. As a gesture of mending their relationship, Jack asks Patrick if he and Lu can join him on a scavenging trip. While at an old warehouse market a mysterious young woman (Clara Lago) appears. The woman is in shock and in need of help, so they take her with them. When she recovers the woman tells them how her survivor group was attacked by the creatures. She also reveals that her group was on their way to Harmony, having heard a radio broadcast. Hearing a roar from a creature outside, the woman panics, but Patrick tells her it okay, it’s just one they captured. The woman grabs a pistol from the table, runs outside and shoots it in the head. But the execution comes too late as they quickly discover, for the creature’s loud calls are how they communicates to one another, and thus sets the stage for a very intense climatic battle between the living and a horde of ravenous mutant humanoids.
Extinction is a character driven film with solid performances from Donovan, Fox and Lago, in addition to the well-rounded, natural performance from young actress, McColgan, all of which gives the film believability. The relationships between disunited friends as well as that between father and daughter are explored deeply in a strong, dramatic narrative. Those between Donovan and McColgan’s characters are especially tightly woven and often poignant and emotional. Jeffery Donovan’s contempt and anger toward his former friend juxtaposed against his nurturing and loving fatherly side is far from his character on Burn Notice, showing us the depth of his acting skills. Matthew Fox also shines as the tormented and distraught Patrick. Here again is another portrayal far from the character he once played in Lost, showing his versatility as an actor.
Beautiful shots of scenery by cinematographer Josu Inchaustegui and outstanding camera direction from director Miguel Ángel Vivas during action sequences add to the beauty of the film, despite its bleak and stark setting. The cannibalistic mutants are realistic, relying on practical effects rather than CGI, making the them more menacing as well as frightening.
Extinction doesn’t break any new ground and it is a story of survival often told. There are also moments where the film lags, although the characters and the impact nine years of isolation has had on all of them is explored. The back story of the broken friendship and how Lu became Jack’s daughter is presented through brief flashbacks — a bit disjointed at moments — which gives enough detail to satisfy. How the world became frigid is not explained (perhaps in the novel) but the evolution of the infected is a nice element.
It is not often we get an intelligent, well made and well acted zombie horror film, and this is exactly what director Miguel Ángel Vivas has made with Extinction.
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas
Written by Juan de Dios Garduño (novel Y pese a todo…), Alberto Marini, Miguel Ángel Vivas
Cast: Matthew Fox, Jeffrey Donovan, Quinn McColgan, Valeria Vereau, Clara Lago, Eduardo Fedriani
Run Time: 110 minutes
Release Date: In US theaters now and streaming in HD.