★★ / ★★★★
Nine years have passed since the outbreak of a virus that turns humans into rabid killers. Healthy humans have gone into hiding with little to no communication even with those only a few miles away. Some have assumed they are the only people left, including nine-year-old Lu (Quinn McColgan) who is restricted by her guardian, Jack (Jeffrey Donovan), from stepping foot outside the house. Soon, however, Lu begins to have portentous nightmares about monsters and she begins to come across evidence that the infected creatures have found them.
Although “Extinction,” written by Alberto Marini and Miguel Ángel Vivas, does not particularly offer game-changing elements into the zombie universe, it offers enough rising action, suspense, and thrills to hold its own. Interestingly, it chooses to hone its dramatic core at times—which involves a complicated relationship among two neighbors, Jack and Patrick (Matthew Fox)—over delivering violence and attempting scares.
This approach works because we gain an understanding of the characters and how they live their daily lives. Inside their homes, we come to appreciate the loneliness and isolation of the characters. Lu learns how to add and multiply, about cultures outside her own, and about how the world was like prior to the outbreak. But underneath it all there is a hint of sadness because she has never had—and maybe never will have—the chance to apply the information she has acquired from books onto real life.
Outside supposedly safe walls, there is seemingly endless snow fall and very few signs of life. When we do see an animal, it is killed for food. Meat is scarce. Lu admires her next-door neighbor for having the chance to go outside, visit the town, and carry meat as he heads back inside. Lu feels a strange gravitation toward Patrick—which is one of the picture’s main weaknesses because the answer is predictable and tired. The writers appear to make only a superficial attempt to make the relationship more interesting or more complex. This is especially problematic because a significant part of the human drama in this story involves these two.
The creatures look appropriately menacing—occasionally impressive—under proper lighting. The trips to town stand out because there is constant threat that the characters will cross paths with them. There is a fascinating line or two about the monsters having such a fast rate of evolution. While humans have evolved over a span of millions of years, these things have changed in only nine. The details regarding which traits they have gained and lost in order to survive are believable which adds to the horror. The implication is that if these creatures were able to undergo extensive evolution in merely under a decade, what could happen to humans in fifty or a hundred years?
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas and based on a novel by Juan de Dios Garduño, “Extinction,” also known as “Welcome to Harmony,” is purposeful in its slow pacing and atmospheric details which sets it apart from the subpar and terrible zombie flicks. It offers a few moments of creativity, particularly the weakness of the zombies. Still, it could have benefited from offering a bit more excitement and a few more creative choices with respect to the relationships among its lonely and disconnected characters.