Tuesday, 19 January 2016

'Extinction' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the film to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story elements spoilt for you please do not read further.

Nine years after the zombie apocalypse two feuding survivors live next to each other in the snowy wilderness, with a nine year old girl stuck in the middle, that is until the mutant creatures return, this time bigger, faster and scarier than before.

Director Miguel Angel Vivas tries to bring something different to the standard zombie apocalypse film, by adding family drama, a new type of setting and a monstrous new type of zombie creature.

Unfortunately the character drama adds little to the overall experience, as the character aren't complex enough, and the twists and secrets aren't surprising enough to be effective.  The story follows Patrick (Matthew Fox) and Jack (Jeffrey Donovan) nine year after an unspecified event caused a global zombie outbreak, where they are holed up in neighbouring houses in the snow covered town of Harmony.

Through flashbacks and conversations we learn that Jack's daughter Lu, played brilliantly by the young actress Quinn McColgan, isn't in fact Jack's daughter, but that of the almost hermit like Patrick.  Due to Lu's mother Emma having died due to Patrick's alcoholism, and his inability to stop drinking, Jack threw Patrick out of their home and took Lu on as his own daughter.

Whilst this does add extra drama to what could be a fairly bland zombie survival story, the fact that Lu is Patrick's daughter plays out too slowly over the course of the film, and by the time of the big reveal it had become glaringly obvious and lost most of its shock factor.

The flashbacks are often a little too vague too, at first I thought Emma died in the films prologue when she was bitten by a zombie, but then it looks like she simply cut her arm off in order to survive, but died later on during a supply run with a drunk Patrick.  I say looks like because the film plays these scenes as rather vague, leaving people to do a little thinking about what happened rather than being straight out told.

What the film does do quite nicely though is it's setting.  With the exception of a brief prologue that shows the events of the initial zombie outbreak the whole film is set in a snow covered wilderness, and this does give the film it's own look and feel that sets it apart from most films in the franchise.  The snow covered environment is never explained in the film, it's not clear whether our heroes are living in a colder climate in hope of keeping the undead away from them, or if this is the result of some kind of climate shift.

Whatever the reasoning for the snowy setting it doesn't matter, as it not only gives the film its own visual style, but also acts as the catalyst for the new type of creature Patrick and Jack have to face.  The zombies, long thought died out by the films heroes, have simply been changing and adapting to their new surroundings.

The films creatures are no longer the standard zombie, but have become fast, blind creatures more akin to the crawlers from 'The Descent' than your standard Romero shuffling corpse.  These new creatures are fast, they can climb walls and their bites no longer cause victims to become infected.  What trait they do share with their old zombie selves is the need for a bullet to the head to kill them.  If you thought destroying the brain was hard enough when they're shambling corpses wait until they're leaping across the walls and crawling on the ceiling.

The film comes alive when the monsters show up at least gives us an entertaining finale that raises the stakes and tension in an otherwise slow going character driven story.

The film might not be perfect, but it is entertaining and engaging enough to keep me entertained for the entire run time, plus I'm interested in reading the original book that the film is based on, 'Y Pese A Todo' by Juan de Dios Garduno, which surely can't be a bad thing.


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