Sunday, August 11, 2013

Horror Film Review

Extinction (2011):  Non-zombie zombie flick from Germany.  Normally, this would be cause for celebration as our friends from the Fatherland do know how to put together a decent horror film.  If you need proof, watch Rammbock or Hell.  In this case, however, the filmmakers decided to forgo originality in favor of rehashing the plotline of The Walking Dead.  And as much as I like AMC's excellent series, it really has had a negative impact on the zombie movie genre.  It's a bizarre Catch-22. 

An outbreak has mutated most of the world's population into a variety of cannibalistic freaks.  Some are "walkers" and some are "runners."  Some have white blood, the others red.  Why?  Dunno.  The survivors have a genetic immunity.  Or something.  Anyway, we're in Cologne, Germany where Tom (Daniel Buder) has taken refuge in an abandoned U.S. military installation after escaping the calamities occurring in that beautiful city (I've been there).  The base looks eerily similar to the prison on a certain TV show about zombies.  On a supply run, Tom collects other survivors.  Lisa (Luise Bahr), her American father Bill (Jerry Coyle) who happens to be an NSA agent, and her whiny asshole boyfriend Martin (Klaus Ebert).  Soon thereafter, Tom and Martin rescue medical student Zara (Bina Milas) and free imprisoned thief Luke (Lee Rychter).  Not long after that, brothers David and Max (Christian Stock) and (Tobias Kay) come roaring into the base in a Hummer, a result of Tom dialing random numbers on a satellite phone and actually reaching someone.  So, that's our group of protagonists.  Well, Martin dies early, which was a good thing.  He really was a whiny asshole. 

Mutation being was it is, soon we see not only walkers and runners, but jumpers.  Yep, those high fences topped with razor wire might as well not even be there.  They flee the base and head for a dam with an underground research facility where they're to meet geneticist Peter Bishop (Heinrich Baumgartner) who Bill's superiors think can puzzle out a cure.  (Fans of the TV show Fringe will love the geneticist's name.)  Anyway, they meet up with Bishop but the boffins in the facility won't let them in saying they've all been exposed to radiation from Europe's nuclear power plants that have inconveniently exploded after their cooling tanks shut down.  Fair point.  Next stop is a castle where a priest a few faithful have holed up.  Tom's sister lives close by and since Bishop thinks immunity is genetic, off goes Tom, but his sister has mutated.  Her baby hasn't, though.  The castle is overrun, some folks die, and they're off again going south, away from the nuclear plants, maybe to Gibraltar and then Africa.  That's it. 

Now for the problems, and there are gobs of them.  Throughout the film, it's hinted that a big and bad super mutant is lurking about killing the zombies, which should have set up an awesome encounter.  It went nowhere.  On the many occasions when the runners chase the heroes, the heroes never close a door behind them.  Ever.  I could see one or two because the zombies were too close, but every time?  Silly.  And the radiation...only Bishop gets radiation poisoning.  Why?  It's a contrivance to heighten drama because now, Bishop as to "teach" med student Zara all he knows before dying.  Rather than heighten drama, it just makes you roll your eyes.  Also, it's never explained why Tom's sister got infected if Bishop's theory was correct.  And finally, no matter the intensity of the fighting or the amount of running and falling, Tom's hair is always perfectly coiffed and his clothes barely even wrinkled.  Not exactly shooting for realism there.  Maybe it was in his contract. 


Acting:  Bahr as Lisa is very good.  Coyle as Bill is not.  Everyone else falls somewhere in between.  Everyone speaks nearly flawless English, which I found strange.
Story:  I like the Germany setting but why set it on an old American base?  Sort of a slap in the face to fellow Germans.  Otherwise, I liked how there were different kinds of zombies that technically aren't zombies.  One had no eyes and shrieked like Banshee from the X-Men.  Ultimately, though, it doesn't work because we aren't given enough science to understand what the hell happened. 
Direction:  Glacial pacing is detrimental.  It makes the 110 minutes seem like 130.  Even the action sequences are oddly lifeless.  (See what I did there?)
Production Values:  Can't argue with location shooting in and around Cologne.  It's a lovely area.  The military base, on the other hand, is ugly and depressing.  The film stock and filters chosen result in an almost colorless movie.  At least the lighting and sound are acceptable.
Gore/FX:  Lots of zombie heads going splat.  A couple of quick scenes of viscera-nibbling.  Nothing that'll make you upchuck your supper.  The CGI, what there was of it, wasn't bad. 
Scares:  One.  At the very beginning.  Can't miss it.
Ending:  First ending is a yawn. Two cars driving south.  However, after some credits roll, the true ending is a shot of Tom's new-found nephew blinking his eyes.  Let's just say they're not what you'd call normal eyelids.  That I liked.
Verdict:  Should you see Extinction?  I can't recommend it.  It's just so damn "blah."  That's what happens when you try to copy a groovy show like The Walking Dead.  It's never going to be as good so why try?  Easy.  To capitalize on its popularity and make a quick buck.  Or in this case, Euro.

Rating:  2 out of 5

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