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EXTINCTION: THE G.M.O. CHRONICLES (2011)
It’s the end of the world, thanks to one of those experiments gone awry that have turned most of the world’s population into flesh-eating zombies. But if you happen to have a certain genetic make-up, you’re immune to the virus. Our hero Tom (Daniel Buder) is one such lucky dog. But as it turns out, being the last man on Earth sucks. Or at least, Tom is the last man on Earth for, oh, about 15 minutes, I think, before he runs into other survivors — a father and daughter (and the daughter’s boyfriend), two brothers, and a couple of other folks in his part of the world. Tom takes them all back to his hide-out, an old U.S. Army base where he used to play as a kid, and together they try to brave the zombie apocalypse. Things are going swell for a while, but then parkour zombies show up, and our heroes find that their fenced sanctuary might not be so safe after all.
Yes, I said parkour zombies. I shit you not. Co-written and directed by Niki Drozdowski, “Extinction: The G.M.O. Chronicles” (I believe the “GMO” part stands for “genetically modified organism”, the cause of the virus, but I could be wrong) is like “28 Days Later” in that the zombies are “infected” victims instead of having been bitten or awaken from death. Getting bit by zombies don’t do anything here (though I’m sure it hurts), because once you’re immune, well, you’re immune. The zombies come in all shapes and sizes, from the aforementioned parkouring zombies to giant hulking mother truckers to freakish ones with no eyes that look like something straight out of a “Silent Hill” videogame. That’s one of the film’s better traits — it’s not afraid to mix and match what it likes about the genre to create its own version. There are fast zombies, slow zombies, zombies that sleep, etc.
If you’ve never heard of “Extinction”, that might be because it’s German produced, and all the actors (save for one, I believe) are German. Drozdowski and company have made the decision to shoot the movie in English, with no dubbing involved, clearly with an eye towards International distribution. Hey, it beats reading subtitles, I guess. The film itself is pretty entertaining, with well-rounded characters that don’t always do what you expect them to do in zombie movies (you know, act all stereotypical and predictable and such) and Drozdowski’s direction is better than average. Daniel Bruder is convincing as a badass, Luise Bahr is cute as hell, and the film, despite not going anywhere for a long middle section, is never boring. It actually moves quite well, with a bloody finale and perhaps a room or two for a sequel. If you get the chance, I recommend “Extinction: The G.M.O. Chronicles”.
EXIT HUMANITY (2011)
John Geddes’ Old West-set “Exit Humanity” is one ponderously serious zombie movie. It’s certainly gritty and moody and is probably the best visually shot film of the three zombie entries I’m reviewing in this outing of Encapsulated Cinema. Mind you, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best, but it is very different, and if you’re tired of the gags and the irrelevance with your zombie mayhem, “Humanity” is your cure. The film is a steadfastly morose tale about a Civil War vet (Mark Gibson) who returns home to find the countryside overrun by zombies. After his wife and child fall prey to the disease, our hero loads up and rides off to hunt down the undead, keeping track of his odyssey by way of a journal (“read” to us by the great Brian Cox). Things are looking mighty grim, but in a world without phones or TV, you can actually believe that the undead can run rampant for years without the authorities getting wind of it and charging in with the cavalry.
Eventually our wandering zombie killer crosses paths with Isaac (Adam Seybold), a fellow survivor whose sister (Jordan Hayes) was abducted by a crazy Southern General (are there any other kind?) and his henchmen. The General believes there is a cure, and is willing to kill everyone (other than himself, of course) to find it. At times “Exit Humanity” feels like a zombie film trying to masquerade as an arthouse movie. I mean, even it’s title: “Exit Humanity”? Sounds like a self-important arthouse movie right there. I’m not sure what kind of budget John Geddes had at his disposal, but “Humanity” looks great — drab and depressing and suffocatingly bleak. The countryside looks unlivable and I’m not sure I’d want to spend a night in this joint even if there weren’t zombies wandering around the place.
The film features strong acting, in particular by lead Mark Gibson as the film’s laconic hero. Gibson spends the film’s first 30 minutes essentially by himself, hunting zombies, writing in his journal, and trying to find reasons to not blow his own brains out. Great stuff. Not so successful is Bill Moseley as is the cartoonishly evil villain, his lack of subtlety in a film that has been so earnestly serious up to this point providing a rather incongruent vibe. Director Geddes (who also wrote the script) has a great eye for action, and the film’s zombie killing is top notch stuff. “Exit Humanity” is never really all that frightening, as the living are incredibly proficient with their weapons, which I suppose makes sense since they’re all ex-Civil War vets. If you’re looking for a serious go at the genre, Geddes and company have your film. I found it highly watchable and extremely competent across the board, but man, it’s one of those movies I ain’t ever watching again.
ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (2011)
In a zombie apocalypse themed Encapsulated Review article, it was only a matter of time before we actually reviewed a movie called … “Zombie Apocalypse”!!! Anyhoo. Despite its Asylum pedigree (a questionable notation to any film production if there ever was one in today’s market), Nick Lyon’s “Zombie Apocalypse” is surprisingly watchable. It helps, of course, that the Asylum and Lyon have a pair of genre vets in Taryn Manning and Ving Rhames in the cast, and the rest aren’t too shabby, either. It’s too bad the zombies suck, and I’m not even talking about the make-up work, which, yes, happens to be downright terrible as well, but I can usually overlook this. You know how the makers of the AMC show “The Walking Dead” took great pride in putting all their zombie actors through Zombie Boot Camp before committing them to the screen? Well, Lyon and company didn’t bother here. What passes for zombies in the film are essentially nameless extras told, I suspect, to “act zombie” and left to their own devices. Which explains the hilariously disparate “zombie styles” that appear throughout the movie.
Our final tale of zombie mayhem opens with three friends (Manning among them) finally emerging from the cabin where they’ve been hiding since the zombie apocalypse began six months earlier. They are promptly attacked, but Manning and another buddy are saved by Mack (Gary Weeks) and his little band of merry survivors, including Rhames (who co-starred in the big-budget zombie movie “Dawn of the Dead” only 7 years earlier) and “Spartacus'” Lesley-Ann Brandt, whose character is no doubt modeled after the Michonne character from Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” comics, complete with katana. The newly formed group hightails it to Catalina Island, where they believe the last remnants of human civilization resides. Getting there, alas, is easier said than done. Later on, the group encounters a trio of arrow-slinging badasses. It’s too bad we didn’t see more of these guys earlier, cause all that bow action was nifty.
The hilariously bad zombies aside, “Zombie Apocalypse” is an easy to digest entry. As mentioned, it’s surprisingly well-acted, and the script keeps things moving at a pretty brisk pace, with the gang always encountering groups of zombies every 10 minutes or so. The movie rarely flags, and there are some nice character moments, if you can believe it. Things are actually looking pretty good for the movie, until … the zombie tigers. Yes, zombie tigers. I shit you not. Before that jaw-droppingly awful finale, I had almost forgotten that this was an Asylum-backed production, but then they had to go and throw in two Godawful looking zombie CG tigers and voila, all that good will the film had created up to this point when right out the window. Why would you ruin a perfectly good zombie movie with something so laughably cheap and bad? The thinking behind this boggles the mind.