‘Extinction’: A Psychological Zombie Thriller With Heart

Whether you call them “zombies,” “walking dead” or just “creatures,” there’s no question that undead human beings are some of the most popular monster villains found in horror movies today. And while there’s a real possibility that “zombie movie fatigue” will eventually set in with audiences, movies like Extinction demonstrate that the genre is far from tapped out. Starring Matthew Fox (Lost, World War Z) and Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice, Hitch), Extinction is the English language directorial debut of Spanish director Miguel Ángel Vivas, who is best known for his 2010 psychological thriller Kidnapped (original title: Secuestrados). The film’s story is based on the novel Y pese a todo… by Juan de Dios Garduño. Here’s the film synopsis, as provided by Sony Pictures:

For nine years, Patrick (Matthew Fox), Jack (Jeffrey Donovan) and his daughter Lu (Quinn McColgan) have outlasted the zombie apocalypse by shutting themselves off in the snowbound town of Harmony.  The monsters have seemingly disappeared, with no sign of other survivors, but the constant fear of the unknown is starting to take a toll on this makeshift family.  When Patrick goes scavenging for food, he discovers the undead have returned and evolved into something terrifying, beyond imagination. Will the last breath of the human race survive a second zombie apocalypse?

While the idea of a small group of humans hiding out together after a zombie epidemic is hardly new, Extinction puts a unique twist on the usual zombie survival story formula by focusing on the relationship dynamics between the three main characters. Despite being next-door neighbors, both of the two primary adult characters are as psychologically shut off from each other as they are physically shut off from the rest of the world. Jack (Jeffrey Donovan) spends his days doting on his daughter Lu (Quinn McColgan), while Patrick (Matthew Fox) finds companionship with his dog. However, Patrick’s discovery of the “evolved” zombies forces the two men to start working together again, and the origins of their mutual distrust is slowly revealed through a series of flashbacks. Check out our exclusive “making of” clip after the break to see Matthew Fox and Jeffrey Donovan talk about the strained relationship between their characters.

How much viewers are interested in the discovering the source of these two men’s enmity will probably determine how much they like the overall movie. Although the creatures in Extinction fall on the fast-moving side of the zombie spectrum (think 28 Days Later rather than The Walking Dead), the pacing of the film is a bit slower than your typical zombie flick, and the undead monsters often take a backseat to the interactions between the human characters.

The relatively slow pace of the film and its dearth of action sequences may account for Extinction’s middling reviews — it currently has a 46 Metascore on Metacritic (indicating “mixed or average reviews”) — and some of the criticism directed at the movie is focused on its slow-burning family drama aspects. However, fans of similarly paced undead entertainment — such as The Walking Dead, or even the original Night of the Living Dead — will likely enjoy this unique entry into the “post-zombie-apocalypse” subgenre.

Extinction has a run time of approximately 110 minutes and is rated R for horror violence, terror and language. It becomes available on DVD and Digital HD on September 1.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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