Extinction (2015)

Post apocalypse fiction has always been my jam – since I was a kid and wasn’t aware it was even a genre. Nowadays, every third movie, book, or video-game is set in some post apocalyptic universe while back then you maybe got one release a year. It’s saturated beyond the point of return, but it doesn’t stop creatives churning them out. Most now aren’t very good and have fallen into an endless loop of recycling, but every so often I still dip my toes in to see if there is anything fresh. 2015’s Extinction is a low budget affair featuring Matthew Fox as one of three survivors of some little seen zombie related event and deals with standard survivalist and philosophical themes. You probably haven’t seen it, but if you’re in the mood, maybe you should.

The film opens with a bus packed with civilians being escorted by the army to a safe haven – we aren’t shown or told why. Before long, the bus is attacked and Matthew Fox’s Patrick, Jeffrey Donovan’s Jack, Valeria Verau’s Emma, and a baby escape the carnage. We flash forward nine years and baby Lu is now a precocious child, living with her father Jack. Patrick lives next door, but the two men are at war due to some unspoken occurrence in the intervening years. Emma is dead. It seems to be permanently winter, and while the zombies are gone they haven’t seen another living person. Jack tries to keep up a normal life of brushing teeth and teacher Maths to Lu, while Patrick gets drunk and tries to contact the outside world with his radio, sometimes heading into town to scavenge. As this is a horror movie, you know they won’t be alone for long.

Those looking for a standard zombie fest will be disappointed – the film only has a couple of brief attacks before the climax and so the film is more about guilt and forgiveness as flashbacks and events fill in the gaps and attempt to reconcile the protagonists. The zombies here are more like the creatures from The Descent – blind mutants which Gollum around the place and rely entirely on sound to find their prey. The brief attacks are basic enough gags you’ve seen before, but the climax does allow for a certain amount of tension provided you’ve bought in to the characters and story. It ends with your standard siege, with the survivors walled inside their home as the creatures tear their way inside. Director Miguel Angel Vivas uses these moments to show off his ability – a few nice panning shots of the creatures inside the walls of the house are well done, while the quirk of the creatures being blind pays off.

There is one major negative and one major positive. The film doesn’t have the money to really pull off what it wants to – some of the effects, particularly in showing off the devastation of the world, are cheap and pull you out of the story. A few moments when characters are travelling on snowmobile or are attacked look too fake. It’s a pity, because when they rely on make-up and physical performers for the final scenes, those look perfectly acceptable. The major plus is having a great trio of actors to tell the story. Fox is great as always, able to sway between drunken despair and action man status effortlessly, while Donovan conveys fear, anger, and hopelessness with a deft care. The stand out may be Quinn McColgan as young Lu – the child who has only ever known winter, a world with only two men, yet still dreams of exploration and other kids. Good child actors are a rarity, but McColgan holds her own – not only convincingly portraying the character and delivering her lines with emotion, but paying attention to the story when she isn’t speaking – a trait which often goes noticed when the camera isn’t focusing on you as a performer. McColgan was of course by this point an experienced actor, so it’s hardly a surprise.

So who is this movie for? Most horror fans are going to go for the mainline films or the very well reviewed indies, while your standard movie fan won’t go out of their way to catch it. Fans of the cast should find it a decent showcase and for anybody interested in a slow-burning story with some slightly unusual creature action this is better than most VOD fare. If more money had been thrown at it, it would have reached its full potential.

Let us know what you thought of Extinction in the comments!

Resident Evil 2

*Originally written in 2004

Like Alien and Aliens, if the first Resident Evil was all about atmosphere, the second is all about action. The film takes off from exactly where the first film ended, with Alice waking in a hospital of some sort, alone, walking out into the city street with a shotgun to find that Raccoon has been decimated. Cars are overturned, on fire, bodies are strewn, and there are no signs of life. This, like the first had potential. Unfortunately it does not live up to expectations, but still manages to be decent.

Residents of Raccoon City are trying to flee, but are being stopped by soldiers who will shoot anyone who approaches. They are trapped, and the zombie infection is spreading quickly. As night approaches, the survivors try to find refuge, led by Jill Valentine – STARS member and character from the game series. She takes a reporter, a taxi driver and others into her protection. Also sent in are an elite group of ex-criminal marines who are mostly wiped out – the survivors Nicholi and Carlos join Jill’s group and later meet Alice, who seems to be different than before. Dr. Ashford is outside the city, and via cameras watches the survivors. His young daughter is still alive somewhere in the city and he phones them with an offer – if they can rescue her, he will airlift all of them to safety. However, an evil army dude has other ideas, and the powerful NEMESIS has been sent in to kill all remaining STARS members.

The film has a fair amount of action, but unfortunately the director decides to use that useless fast cut yet slowed to blur style which is one of the most awful inventions in cinema and means we rarely see what is going on. The introduction of a few game characters is good, but they do not get the emotion from us that they do in the games, and in truth the script does not give them the chance. The taxi character is completely pointless and from the start we want him to die, though he did get a few laughs in the screening I attended. Alice has become super-human and her relationship with the Nemesis is the main reason for watching. It does get better towards the end, and a few twists at add some quality. I was almost misled towards the end when the copter crashes in Arklay, that perhaps now the characters would find a mansion and the real Resident Evil would begin. Something else happened though, setting up another sequel which again looks to have potential. Jovovich is good again, but because of her new found power we feel less for her. The renegade survivors could be better in any subsequent film, and Fehr and Guillory are both okay. With some better editing and direction this would have been better. Still, it’s worth seeing for fans of the series.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Resident Evil 2!

The Night Eats The World

Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is my favourite book of all time. Beyond its influence on horror (no I Am Legend, then no Night Of The Living Dead, no Stephen King, and nothing which either of those two examples have influenced) it remains a stone-cold classic, chilling, prescient, written with a surgeon’s precision and nerve, and it is filled with horror, humour, despair, and acceptance in defeat. It’s so rarely included on any best books of the 20th Century lists as to render those lists worthless. Aside from the many films, TV shows, and books which it has spawned, there have been a few direct or pseudo direct adaptations – The Last Man, The Omega Man, and Will Smith’s I Am Legend. None of those are worth watching more than once, and none come close to the majesty of Matheson’s original. Although it is completely unofficial and not mentioned anywhere as being an influence, The Night Eats The World is the best film version of Matheson’s story we have so far. Interestingly, the movie is in fact an adaptation of a different book by Pit Agarmen/Martin Page which I have not yet read but almost certainly borrows from Matheson.

Just to expand further on that point – both works see a man left seemingly alone in the world, surrounded by the undead. In I Am Legend they are vampires, and here they are zombies, but they are fairly interchangeable – all they want is to kill the lone survivor. The survivor in each spends his days barricading himself up, scavenging for food and supplies, keeping fit, and trying to not go insane. I Am Legend has a dog, The Night Eats The World has a cat. Both are character studies on the nature and notion of survival, on humanity, on loneliness, and while Matheson goes all in on the scientific side, here director Dominique Rocher is more concerned with philosophy, with tone, with cinema. Both works discuss whether the human is now useless – a soon to be extinct relic no longer required by nature and that the undead are the new normal. Our hero in the movie, Sam, discusses this as he descends into madness with a zombie named Alfred which he traps in a lift shaft. Those viewers looking for a straight horror movie may want to look elsewhere because while there are scares – effective ones – this is not supposed to be a visceral experience and instead is a rumination on existence when there seems to be no future – an idea so horrifying you’d struggle to name one worse.

Sam is a musician living in Paris. The film begins with him visiting an ex-girlfriend to pick up some of his recorded pieces of music. Unaware that she is having a monumental party in her apartment block he struggles with the pretentious people, the strangers, the crowds, and the sheer awkwardness of being there. With little to no dialogue or interaction we are put firmly in his shoes and know pretty much everything we need to know about him. A series of unfortunate events lead to Sam falling asleep in a locked room while the camera slowly zooms towards the door as familiar sounds of carnage erupt briefly. The next morning Sam wakes, finds the apartment empty but destroyed and filled with blood. He meets his zombified ex-girlfriend, locks himself away, and soon discovers that some cataclysmic event has unfolded leaving him abandoned an alone. Cultured viewers already know the zombie tropes, so the film doesn’t need to bore us with explanations or examples of how you’re turned, how to kill them, et cetera, and Sam simply resigns himself to the facts. He is alone, he needs food, he needs water, he needs shelter. The rest of the film is a showcase for these struggles, but more importantly what to do with his time and with his existence once these struggles have been overcome.

Sam is as uncomfortable with people as he is without. His descent towards insanity is gradual, shown in clever ways such as terrifying nightmares, possible hallucinations, definite hallucinations, and other subtle and not so subtle changes in his personality and actions. I’ve often wondered how I would cope under the same strains. Part of me thinks I would have the time of my life – free to do whatever I wanted and perfectly fine with never meeting another living soul again. Then again, that was before I had a family. And I’m essentially useless at DIY, cooking, farming, and anything else needed for surviving under these conditions. And most of the things I’d want to do would be rendered obsolete by the fact that electricity would be gone and a step outside would likely lead to certain death. Like many of its ilk, the film forces these questions and assumptions upon the viewer, though this is the most effective example I’ve seen since Dawn Of The Dead. 

The film is a slow-burner. There is almost no dialogue, and any violence and action when it comes is swift and brief. For me this worked, especially knowing Sam’s character and within the self-defined constrictions of the piece, but I understand that other viewers may get frustrated or even bored by the unfolding story. A few negative reviews have gone so far as calling it dull and a few have been angered by the open-ended conclusion. This isn’t a film which has a beginning and an end. This is a few months in the life of a man trapped and buried by insurmountable odds, and the conclusion is simply one more step – a step towards more of the same, or a step towards whatever is next is down to the viewer to assess. Again, you’ve asked what you would do if faced with the same situation – what would you do faced with the ending?

Anders Danielsen Lie is an up and coming star, with a number of notable releases and performances in this and recent years. The film belongs almost entirely to him and the director, who I can only assume worked closely on most aspects. His performance is gritty and quietly powerful, avoiding many of the usual hallmarks of the ‘guy goes mad’ story. Without becoming too extreme in any single direction, he runs the gamut of emotions and remains convincing throughout. Rocher is surely a name to watch now too, the latest director to wield a more subtle approach to terrifying audiences, and I will be excited to see what her comes up with next. His camera rarely jump-cuts or moves beyond a pedestrian pace and he is more interested in how desolate a room or a city can look than how bloody a person can be when being torn to shreds. The decision to make zombies almost completely silent is more potent than it sounds and leads to some of the more frightening encounters in many years. A strong soundtrack fills out some of the empty spaces and a few supporting characters add to the overall quality and effect. Although I admit to being predisposed to loving this, it is a highly recommended voyage into the horror of solitude. Train To Busan came from nowhere and thrilled audiences and rejuvenated a genre everyone was sick with – The Night Eats The World does the same, but in an entirely different style. In a year where horror saw a number of major financial and critical successes, and in a year where I read countless best movie of the year posts featuring every Superhero movie under the sun, The Night Eats The World is not being discussed by anyone but should be leapfrogging its way onto every series movie fan’s list.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 7

EXT. A GRAVEYARD. DAY

RICK GRIMES: Lori, I just wanted to say… I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when all the zombies came, and now I’m here and you’re in this grave, dead.

CARL: Hi, dad. What you doing?

RICK GRIMES: Oh, hello son. I was just talking to your mother, and putting some flowers on her grave.

CARL: Uh, dad. What are you talking about? Mom’s not dead.

RICK GRIMES: Yes she is, remember? You were there.

CARL: No, that was some other lady. Look, mom’s over there.

RICK GRIMES: Huh? Where? Where!

CARL: Ha ha! Made you look!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 6

EXT. PRISON. DAY

CARL: Look at the flowers, just look at the flowers!

SOPHIA: Why do you keep saying that?

CARL: Cos they’re so pretty. I mean, look at them!

SOPHIA: Carl, there aren’t very many others boys around anymore, and I was wondering. Would you like to be my boyfriend?

CARL: A pansy, a lovely tulip, and ooh look! A sweet pea! I think I’m going to sew this one into my one of a kind, Italian silk, moody, sunkist cravat. Sorry, what were you saying?

SOPHIA: Never mind.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 5

INT. A SLAUGHTERHOUSE. DAY

A group of cannibals have tied up our heroes and are about to cut their throats.

GARETH: Any last words before, heh heh, dinner?

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Our father, who art in heaven…

GARETH: Oh please, ‘your God’ can’t help you now. Anyone else?

RED SHIRT: Please, I don’t want to die!

GARETH: How uninspiring – slice this guy’s throat already.

In a twelve minute scene, the Red Shirt is skinned alive, has his throat cut, is chopped into pieces, then Gareth dances the Macarena wearing Red Shirt’s skin.

RICK GRIMES: I promise I’m going to kill you.

GARETH: Oh really? If this guy’s God can’t kill me, how do you expect to?

A sudden THUNDERBOLT shoots from the SKY and torches GARETH and the other baddies. They are now dead.

OLD MAN HERSHEL: For ever and ever. Amen.

RICK GRIMES: Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 4

INT. AN ABANDONED WAREHOUSE. NIGHT

GLEN: So that’s the plan – I’ll sneak around the back and make a bit of a ruckus to distract the biters, then you come around from the other side and grab the big box of food, got it?

RICK GRIMES: Sure thing, skip. Lets – AGH! ARRGGH! Something’s biting me!

GLEN: It’s fine, your shirt just got caught on the sharp edge of a wooden crate

RICK GRIMES: No, I’ve been infected! Quick, hack off my arm before I become a zombie!

GLEN: No, you’re going to be – oh, alright then.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 3

EXT. A FIELD INSIDE A PRISON. DAY

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Now listen up, everyone. The Lord has felt it necessary to wreak this plague upon us to shame us for our iniquities, but while we still live we need to prepare for the fut- Rick, what on Earth are you doing?

RICK GRIMES: Handstands.

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Han- why are you doing handstands? We’re having a serious discussion about farming, and irrigation, and such.

RICK GRIMES: Yeah I know but, handstands are much more fun. Look – weeeeee!

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Rick, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever – it does look kinda neat though. Let me try. Weeeeeee!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 2

EXT. A CREEPY WOOD. DAY

RICK GRIMES: Sigh. Another awful day in the zombie apocalypse. I wonder if anything interesting will happen today

MICHONNE: Stop right there, white boy, befo I chop off yo head!

RICK GRIMES: Oh, hello. Pleasant day we’re having, isn’t it.

MICHONNE: Da fuq you talkin’ bout? Can’t you see I got this big ass sword and these two jawless biters tied to me?

RICK GRIMES: Yes ma’am, you said it! Another glorious day in the zombie apocalypse. (Singing) ‘Sunshine, lollipops, and – zombies – everything that’s do-bee-do-bee-la-dee-da-dee-bee together!

MICHONNE: Dis bitch be cray…

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 1

INT. A HOSPITAL WARD. DAY

RICK GRIMES (Waking up and yawning): Ahh, nothing like a nap to sooth those aching wounds. Wait a second, aching wounds? Where am I?

Shuffling sounds and moans come from outside the room

RICK GRIMES: Heh- hello? Is there anyone out there?

A zombie dressed in a police uniform shambles into the room

ZOMBIE SHANE: Rrrriiiiik!

RICK GRIMES: Oh no! It’s the Zombie Apocalypse!

ZOMBIE SHANE: Rrriiiiiik… iiwsssffffkkkknng Loorrrreeeeeee!

RICK GRIMES: What’s that? Little Coral is trapped down a well? Lets move!