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?
(Not to be confused with the Dinosaur drama of the same name from 2014, this film is adapted from the zombie novel ‘Y pese a todo/And Despite Everything’ by Juan de Dios Garduno.)
Jeffrey Donovan stars with great intensity as Jack. His face may be familiar to horror fans as Jeffrey Patterson in ‘Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2’ (he was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for one half of the Worst Screen Couple in that much maligned film). Here, he and a little girl, the impetuous Lu (a brilliant Quinn McColgan) are two survivors of a zombie attack on a bus attempting to transport people to a ‘safe zone’ nine years earlier. Now, the world is in the biting grip of a very impressively imagined snow-scape. They meet up with Patrick, also a survivor of the attack and a character with his own story to tell, who is played with sensitivity by Matthew Fox. At one point we see a frozen cinema advertising screenings of ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ – maybe this is an in-joke: a film adaption of this HP Lovecraft story has been promised and ‘in the works’ for some time now. It seems the filmmakers here are suggesting the world will have frozen over before it sees fruition!
‘Extinction’ is a fairly intimate story of human tragedy and forgiveness with a freezing backdrop of both a second ice age, and the evolution and adaption of the zombie creatures still in existence. Amongst the hopelessness, there is a scattering of heart-warming moments – Jack, Lu and Patrick turning from enemies to (almost) friends over a meal instigated by the youngster. And if the image of a bedraggled man cradling his dead dog, himself attacked and wounded by a zombie, across a picture postcard apocalypse doesn’t bring a tear to the eye, the viewer must have a hardened heart.
Filmed in Hungary and Spain, the constant dazzling white makes for a stunning visual framework for the well-acted human drama that unfolds. Very occasionally, moments threaten to cross the line into overt sentimentality, but manage to rein themselves in with commendable restraint. Only moments after Patrick assures everyone that ‘no-one is going to die,’ it is his sacrifice that allows Jack, Lu and a nameless new arrival (Clara Lago) the possibility of freedom – albeit uncertain.