I’d give “Extinction” (2015) a 6 out of 10; it’s a fairly average postapocalyptic horror movie. And that’s kind of sad, as it seemed to have the ingredients for a great one.
We open with a delightfully scary nocturnal ambush on two school buses crowded with fleeing refugees. The scene isn’t perfect. (The soldiers here are both too stoical and too stupid.) But it’s effective thanks to its claustrophobic setup. The assailants actually aren’t zombies or “undead” — they’re vicious, fast-moving mutants that are far more interesting. (Their monsteryness is contagious and catches quickly, a la 2002’s “28 Days Later.” This predictably spells disaster for the busses’ passengers.) The animalistic albino baddies actually reminded me a lot of the creatures from “Mutants” (2009).
Then we jump ahead nine years, where two men and a nine-year-old girl suspect that they are the last of the world’s survivors. But three people are enough for conflict, human nature being what it is. There is a creatively conceived and fresh idea for a particularly dark end-of-the-world drama. Jeffrey Donovan and Matthew Fox are both very good; yet the incredibly talented young Quinn McColgan outshines them both. (Seriously, that little girl is off the hook. Her performance might be the best thing about the film.) The makeup effects for the monsters (here only referred to as “they” or “them”) are surprisingly fantastic for what seems like a low-budget film. And you can tell that a nice amount of thought went into this movie, even if its understanding of Darwin is a little puzzling. (Why would blindness be an adaptive trait for the monsters?)
I’m just not sure why this movie didn’t work so well for me. Its formula sure as hell worked for “28 Days Later” and “Maggie” (2015).
Here’s what I think the problem was — the conflict between the two men was a plot that just never advanced. One hates the other. We eventually find out why, and it’s a compelling plot point, rendered fairly well in flashback. But … it’s a static situation that just doesn’t proceed anywhere. I actually got bored.
The monsters often did little to advance the tension. They are usually offscreen, absent entirely, or even (in much of the movie’s beginning) presumed extinct. My attention really did wander.
Finally, the extremely cheesy musical score detracted greatly from the tension that the movie does manage to establish. This horror movie sounded like a Lifetime Channel movie-of-the-week. That is not a good thing. If only those violin players had been victims of the initial apocalypse.
Oh, well. This is still a fairly good end-of-the-world tale. And the creepy-crawlies were nice, when we got to see them.