Friday 25 November 2016
Harmony Heir's Prey
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas
Sony Region 2 DVD
Warning: Very mild spoilers... which you’ll almost certainly see coming, anyway.
Okay... this is another one I got into through the music because Varese Sarabande released the score by Sergio Moure towards the end of last year. So I waited for it to hit the cinemas over here and, of course, after a while I found out that not only hadn’t it got a big screen release in the UK, it was already on bargain bucket DVD on Amazon. So, yeah, finally got to see the movie that the cool music went with and... I was not disappointed.
Based on the novel Y Pese A Todo by Juan de Dios Garduño, who also co-wrote the screenplay, Extinction tells the story of a few surviving people after a couple of apocalyptic events hit worldwide, one of which is akin to a zombie virus. So, yeah, this is very much an I Am Legend variant in some ways. It’s got not so great word of mouth or critical celebration, it seems to me, but having watched it I have to say, it’s one of the more interesting little horror films that we’ve had released over here recently (albeit on a ‘straight to home video’ format in this country) and I really don’t think it deserves the attention, or lack thereof, that it’s been getting.
Like most good zombie films, there is no reveal as to how the zombie virus got started and we start off with a strong opening scene as civilians are being escorted by the military on a couple of buses. On that bus are Patrick (played by Matthew Fox), Jack (played by Jeffrey Donovan), Emma (played by Valeria Vereau) and Emma’s tiny baby Lu. Any fan of horror films knows a military escort on two buses with a couple of armed guards on board to protect the passengers is bound to go wrong and, as you might expect, it’s not long before the military escort are picked off and infected by flesh chomping undead and the passengers are on their own and fighting for their lives...
We then cut to nine years later and the sleepy village of Harmony.
I say sleepy village because it now has a population of only three people... Jack and Lu, who survived the bus attack from the opening sequence and, in a separate compound, Patrick and his faithful Welsh Border Collie, known as... um... dog. Good a name as any, I guess. I suppose that's four survivors, then, if you count Patrick's four legged friend. It’s clear something has happened between Jack and Patrick so that they are estranged in this manner and, although you think you can probably guess exactly what that is after you’ve seen the full, opening sequence... it’s actually not quite that variation of the events that you think must have happened. It all amounts to the same thing, though, and you’ll see that play out in one of many flashbacks as the movie continues on its, pretty interesting, path.
One thing is for sure, though, and that’s the cold and snow which these last three survivors are living in. And that’s where the existence of a second apocalyptic event is revealed to the audience. The Earth somehow managed to have a ‘big freeze’ and this, effectively, second ice age (well, it snows a bit but I guess you could define it as that) is what killed off all the zombies all those years ago. Although this doesn’t stop Jack and Patrick taking every precaution just in case, you know, someday the zombies return. Which you know they’re going to, right? Except... maybe not in the form you would expect.
It’s very much a character driven piece and the writers and directors take time to let the actors fill out their roles and allow them to live in the audience’s mind before the inevitable rug-pulling scenes kick in. Lu is now nine years old and so Jack is taking all his time educating her, worrying about her and attempting to keep her out of trouble... overcompensating for disaster in her upbringing a lot due to his own experiences. The nine year old version of the character is played by a young actress called Quinn McColgan and, it has to be said, she does amazing work in this role. The unkempt Patrick, on the other hand, keeps himself from going insane by hunting for food and by broadcasting a radio show every day... even though he knows he has no listeners. And that’s pretty much where the status quo of the movie is before... the inevitable happens.
Yes, it’s not too long before the three protagonists who are heirs to the town of Harmony fall prey to a new threat... or rather the old threat come back in new clothes. The zombies aren’t as extinct as we thought. Rather, in the almost decade that the three main characters have been surviving, the undead have evolved into a new kind of creature. Good news is that their bites aren’t infectious anymore. Once one of them chows down on you, then you won’t turn into another zombie thing... if you survive the experience, that is. Bad news is... they’re blind, albino, bestial creatures who can climb most surfaces and who hunt by sound. Not so hot then.
When an additional, fourth character comes into the mix, played by Clara Logo, and warns of the oncoming pseudo-zombie creatures, things get intense... especially when nine year old Lu is accidentally locked in the basement with at least one of the creatures...
What happens next is something I won’t spoil here but there’s more character building and emotional glue to be attended to in this quite taut story, which has a classic look in terms of the snowy streets and environment these characters inhabit. When you see Patrick with his big beard and his dog riding a snow bike and brandishing a rifle, you can’t help but think of John Carpenter’s classic remake of The Thing or the movie may remind you a little of a George A. Romero zombie movie... but with a little more snow.
The acting is great and Vivas finds a way of bringing even the most pedestrian of scenes to life with a sense of ‘something out there’ and a moving camera which, while at times annoying during some of the hand held scenes, really lends the movie an almost voyeuristic feel that this kind of subject matter really works well with. Sergio Moure’s score adds to the atmosphere when required and certainly helps effectively dramatise the situations through a specific musical palette. It’s also pretty good as a stand alone listen too, obviously, otherwise... you know... I probably wouldn’t have bothered seeking out the film in the first place.
When all is said and done, Extinction is a well crafted and more than competent spin on post-apocalyptic horror/science fiction cinema and true fans of the genre will hopefully like this one a heck of a lot more than the critics obviously did. The relationship between Jack and Patrick isn’t as clichéd and completely obvious as the opening sequence might lead you to believe and, slowly but surely, the film reveals the real way in which events have unfolded over the years and why Jack doesn’t even want Patrick talking to him and Lu, let alone coming near his house. Definitely a solid recommendation from me and, now, I have to leave it there so I can go listen to the score again.