“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” Those lyrics by R.E.M pretty much sum up one of the biggest genres currently flooding the media these days, the zombie apocalypse. From the early days of George Romero’s seminal classic Night of the Living Dead to AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead the zombie genre has become bigger than ever, and to quote the great lyricist Sammy Cahn, “It doesn’t show signs of stopping, and I’ve brought some corn for popping.”
For every good zombie movie there is unfortunately a plethora of really terrible ones, even George Romero himself turned out the turd Diary of the Dead, but today we are looking at Extinction which though not terrible is also not all that good. The movie has a nice enough start with a couple of buses full of zombie apocalypse survivors being transported by the military to a supposed place of safety; needless to say they don’t quite make it. The convoy is jumped by the rage fueled variety of zombies and the military personal are about as intelligent as they are effective in handling the situation. Pretty much everyone dies. A few do escape; Patrick (Matthew Fox), Jack (Jeffrey Donovan), and Emma (Valeria Vereau) who has the added disadvantage of fleeing for her life while carrying her baby girl.
Hiding from zombies is never easy when you have a crying baby and so even though Patrick and Jack arrive in time to stop the zombie from eating mother and child poor Emma got bit, and as being bit equals infected she is toast. The movie then jumps ahead nine years and we see Patrick shooting a horse for food as he tools around the frozen wastelands of the city of Harmony on his skidoo. Did the zombie apocalypse trigger the second ice age, or is it just a particularly bad winter? The movie is never really clear on this point as the movie then focuses in on the family drama between Patrick and Jack.
Patrick and Jack do not get along. Jack lives next door with his nine-year-old daughter Lu (Quinn McColgan), but will have nothing to do with Patrick. Lu is not even allowed out of the house let alone to speak to this person she only knows as “Neighbour.” We get the feeling that Jack blames Patrick for Emma’s death and thus will not let this man, who has become a Gerry Garcia look-a-like, near his daughter. Lu herself seems remarkably well balanced for a person whose entire nine year existence has been inside this one particular house, and her dad being her sole human contact. She does rebel a bit; doesn’t brush her teeth before bed and sneaks out to give cookies to Patrick’s dog. She has been told that monsters killed her mother but that the monsters are now gone. How he has managed to explain the need to stay in this house if the monsters are supposedly gone is also never really addressed.
This near two hour movie then slows to a crawl as we deal with Jack, his daughter and their slightly deranged neighbour Patrick who tends to blast music from his loud speakers at all hours of the night. Now I don’t know what most people who sat down to watch a zombie movie called Extinction where expecting, but I bet it wasn’t to see a heavily bearded Mathew Fox getting drunk and giving radio broadcasts.
Eventually the zombies do make an appearance, while Patrick is in town looking for a birthday present for Lu, but they have a markedly different look to them. They have evolved into these naked white things with razor sharp teeth and claws. Patrick later remarks that evolution takes millions of years and these zombies have done it in just nine.
Note to Screenwriters: Having a character point out the flaws in your script does not exempt you from them.
These new evolutionary traits include tough skin and super hearing, and the reason for their increased hearing is because they are a now blind and locate their prey solely by sound. Let us pause for a minute and unpack that little tidbit. In nine years these creature evolved themselves blind? What evolutionary benefit is there in being blind? They are not on a planet like the one in Pitch Black that has nights that last for years, nor are they living in caves like the albino monsters in The Descent, so how does being blind help these zombies function better? Do the filmmakers not understand how evolution works?
The two men have to then bury the hatchet and team-up to fight off this new threat, and what follows is your standard zombie siege where a small group of characters must barricade themselves in a house while the monsters try to get in. Unfortunately earlier when Patrick was attacked in town he escaped by slamming a steel shipping door down, and then later we see that door with a huge bloody hole in it. So how exactly did these people expect wood and nails to keep out creatures that can bust through steel? They don’t even remark on this startling development.
This would be a case of filmmakers not keeping the monsters abilities consistent. At one point Lu has to play cat and mouse in the basement with one of the “super-hearing” zombies, but as the basement is partially flooded, and any movement of Lu’s would result in at least a little splashing, how the fuck does she survive this?
Both Matthew Fox and Jeffrey Donavan give credible performances, with Fox’s character being given a little extra to do with his crazy hermit persona, but the stand-out here is Quinn McColgan as Lu, and I do hope she gets some work that can really show case her growing talents. As it is this movie will disappoint most fans of the genre as it doesn’t horrify nor does it bring anything new to the genre. If you want to see a hybrid of The Descent with 28 Days Later this is the film for you, but if not then check out Maggie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, which did manage to broach some interesting and new ideas. Extinction on the other hand will be quickly forgotten along with a plethora of it’s brethren.
Final Note: The title Extinction is about the blandest title anyone could come up with, and means absolutely nothing in the context of this story. Originally it was called “Welcome to Harmony” which at least had irony going for it.