Not the worst thing you’ll see all week: Extinction

, | Movie reviews

Matthew Fox and Jeffrey Donovan have earned a lot of goodwill lately. Fox with his efficiently ruthless Indian killer in Bone Tomahawk and Donovan with his treacherous elder son in the second season of Fargo. They’re not given nearly as much to work with in Extinction, but that’s hardly a fair comparison; Bone Tomahawk and the second season of Fargo are two of the most amazing things I’ve seen this year. Extinction, on the other hand, is just an occasionally clumsy zombie apocalypse yarn. So while they’re eminently watchable here, I can’t blame them for coming across a little flat in comparison to what else they’ve been doing lately. They’re each standing in tall shadows they partly cast themselves.

But Extinction is a unique entry in a genre that’s rarely unique. The first distinguishing feature is an unconventional love triangle. It’s Heather has two daddies…who went through an acrimonious divorce and are now the last survivors in a town called Harmony (subtle irony isn’t Extinction’s strong point). Simple and powerful relationships provide the structure, with Fox, Donovan, and the adorably Barrymore-esque Quinn McColgan as the fulcrum between them. Zombies provide the threat, but instead of shambling hordes, they’re lurking memories. They are a second distinguishing feature for how this isn’t your usual undead rot or rage virus. The final distinguishing feature is a crisp winter aesthetic, icy and colorless. The door to an abandoned house cracks open with that same gratifying ice sheet shatter as a car door opened after an overnight freeze. That cold glaze covers Extinction. This is where it lives. It is the opposite of fertility. Mother Nature has turned as harshly indifferent as a drunkenly numb parent.

Spanish director Miguel Angel Vivas’ previous movie, Kidnapped, was hollow home invasion trash with nothing to recommend it but its real-time split-screen gimmickry. Here Vivas shows that he doesn’t need a gimmick. He shows he can be heartfelt, exciting, and unpredictable, if a bit too earnest. Brace yourself for occasional clunkers like “you are so hellbent on surviving that you’ve forgotten how to live”. I can even sympathize with the zombies in that I sure do wish the music would let up. I’m trying to watch a movie here and the soundtrack keeps butting in to explain everything.

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