“They are the last”
Director: Miguel Ángel Vivas
Cast: Matthew Fox, Jeffrey Donovan, Quinn McColgan
Synopsis: And suddenly, overnight, the world came to a halt. Two men, two survivors, one kid, and hatred that separates them. A place forgotten by everyone, including the creatures that inhabit the Earth… until now.
Life can be awkward when you don’t get on with the neighbours – especially when, as far as you’re aware, you’re one of the few remaining people lucky enough to survive the apocalyptic zombie outbreak from nine years before. Jack (Jeffrey Donovan – J. Edgar) lives in the town of Harmony (pop. 3) with young Lu (Quinn McColgan) who was just a babe in arms when the epidemic struck. Now she’s an inquisitive nine-year-old who’s growing increasingly frustrated about being cooped up inside the house. Jack’s over-protective reluctance to allow her to venture out is not only down to the threat of zombies – even though they haven’t seen one in years – but to keep her away from Patrick (Matthew Fox – Smokin’ Aces, World War Z), their unkempt, alcoholic neighbour, who spends his evenings on the radio, broadcasting messages to the world in the futile hope of making contact with a human being who won’t treat him like a pariah. It’s a situation that has endured for years, but which is inalterably changed when, upon waking from a nightmare one night, Lu spies a strange feral creature in the back yard.
Extinction is a frustrating movie to watch. The zombie sub-genre has been done to death over the past couple of decades; to find a movie that finds a fresh angle on an overly-familiar scenario is rare, and yet Miguel Angel Vivas’s movie somehow contrives to fumble its advantage over its more generic brethren at almost every turn. To begin with, it’s difficult to accept as the film’s hero a character whose near-paranoia over Lu’s safety comes across as a little creepy at times, and who is nowhere near as sympathetic as the neighbour he has ostracised. Even worse, the film is clearly undecided about whether we’re supposed to consider Patrick to be a threat to Jack and Lu’s safety. Although he’s a more sympathetic character than Jack, he’s plagued by voices over the radio urging him to kill his neighbours, suggesting that at some point he’ll succumb to homicidal madness after years of solitude. But then his incipient madness is forgotten completely when incidents conspire to throw the three of them together. Why, then, even bother to include it in the first place? The couple of scenes wouldn’t be missed if they were deleted, and their excision would help to trim an already overlong running time of nearly two hours
The movie is riddled with plot holes, each of which diminishes an otherwise intriguing premise. While an explanation for the zombie outbreak isn’t necessary, it would be nice to know why, nine years later, the world appears to be in the grip of a new ice age. And why is it that none of the nightly broadcasts which Patrick makes are heard by a community only fifty miles away, which finally makes contact on the very night that the three – plus an unnecessary last minute addition to their happy camp – find themselves besieged by the zombie creatures? The idea of having the zombies evolve – or, more properly, devolve – into a sub-humanoid species is a good one, and it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the appearance of their blind progeny. But the fact that they are capable of punching dents into heavy metal doors in one scene, yet aren’t strong enough to push open a door held shut by one man in a later scene is the kind of slack attention to detail that can completely derail a movie. Add to this some unfortunate lines which suggest that English isn’t the writers’ first language – would you scream such things as “leave me alone!” and “drop dead!” to a zombie trying to bite a chunk out of your neck? – and a truly cringe-making moment in which one character, about to undertake a mission that will almost certainly result in their death, beseeches young Lu to “always brush your teeth before bedtime,” and the negatives soon begin to outweigh the positives.
(Reviewed 14th November 2015)