Miguel Ángel Vivas’s is essentially “I Am Legend” with two men and a little lady, fighting off the elements with TV quality special effects and so so direction. And in the end we’re left with a mediocre apocalypse film that at least tries for something unique and different. The opening is kind of a riff on “28 Days Later,” and there are some take aways from “The Walking Dead,” but I have to give it to writers Alberto Marini and Miguel Ángel Vivas side stepping the same old zombie apocalypse doldrums. Even if the prologue does involve that same zombie carnage we’ve seen a thousand times over.
Jeffrey Donovan and Matthew Fox give very spirited performances as two men forced in to each other’s company during the end of the world. As it’s overrun by flesh eating zombies, the two find themselves on a bus to a safe haven with Emma, a woman they’re competing for and the baby girl that might be one of theirs. When a bus heading toward a safe haven is taken over by the vicious zombies, the pair of men manages to get away with Emma who is taken by surprise by a zombie and bitten. Nine years later, both men now live side by side carrying a vicious feud with one another and living lives that are parallel by very isolated from each others, Donovan’s character Jack is raising Emma’s orphaned child, while Fox’s Matthew is a hunter anxiously looking for other humans in the wilderness and literally going stir crazy.
Much of “Extinction” is really about humans living in a winter apocalypse, and waiting for the inevitability of the walking dead returning some day to make their lives a living hell once more. Donovan and Fox as Matthew and Jack make up for most of the film’s short comings, which involve a script that’s way too long for what the story entails. I wouldn’t have minded the film being cut down by fifteen minutes, as the build up to the big boom in the finale takes too long to arrive. Donovan and Fox have to basically carry the film and do it well thanks to the spirited performance by Quinn McColgan who is a sheltered young girl forced to live indoors by her father Jack. Vivas tries for something different not only by picturing two of the last survivors in the country still so bitter about their pasts they can’t even live with each other, but focus more on the imminent threat of the walking dead, rather than plastering the screen with zombies left and right.
What’s more is that when we finally do get the execution of zombie carnage, it’s completely different than expected, as Vivas pictures a new form of zombie that’s evolved and become something of a feral swift monster like the creatures from “I Am Legend” that imply perhaps the original zombie virus established was so much more menacing and capable of damage. The finale really makes up for the dodgy CGI and endless computer generated landscapes and snowy tundras that often pulled me out of the narrative. Vivas doesn’t drop us in to the carnage with flesh eating shamblers, but more horrific snow bound beasts have much more on their minds than eating human beings. “Extinction” is pretty much a mediocre apocalyptic horror film that suffers from a lot of set backs but is salvaged by strong performances, and a tense action packed finale.