Tuesday, September 1, 2015


It seems that the horror genre changes from time to time, bringing various boogeymen to the forefront and then changing that to a different one for a while. Remember when THE EXORCIST came out and suddenly there was a ton of exorcism movies on screens? With TWILIGHT came tons of vampire movies. And now we have zombies. The success of THE WALKING DEAD has led to numerous zombie movies and while most are terrible there are the exceptions. One I write about on the blog called WYRMWOOD which is a gore filled zombie fest fans will like. And this week we get something new and fresh to the genre, EXTINCTION.

The movie opens with a busload of people being shuttled to an Army base. The bus stops and before you know can say flesh eaters it is besieged by zombies. Friends Jack (Jeffrey Donovan of BURNT NOTICE) and Patrick (Matthew Fox of LOST) fight off these zombies as others are crushed. Along with Emma and baby Lu they hide out but not before Emma is bitten.

Fast forward to nine years later. The world is a frozen wasteland. We’re not told if this is constant or if this is just winter, but it seems to be as desolate as it can get. Patrick is out scavenging for food and ammunition. He gets back to his home, a building surrounded by chain link fence and next door to Jack and the now 9 year old Lu (Quinn McColgan). The two homes are separated by the fence that also surrounds both. But it is the fences built by the people in these homes that becomes the focus of the story.

Sometime in the past, something happened that tore the two friends apart. Something so terrible that while Jack stays in his home barely scraping by with enough for him and Lu to eat, he continues to try and stay alive and well teaching Lu things like reading and writing. Patrick on the other hand has deteriorated. Long hair, unshaved and filthy he drinks most of the time when not foraging for food. His only companion is a dog he shares his home with. He spends his nights on the short wave radio trying to locate other survivors, all of this airing over speakers he’s rigged to his fence. Even though the fences are there, the fear of zombies is gone, all of them thought to have died out.

One day while scavenging in a warehouse in a nearby city, Patrick finds a fresh, half-eaten carcass of an animal in the store. Following the blood trail he finds a zombie but not like the old days. They’ve adapted to the cold. Nearly blind they rely on their supersensitive earholes to find their prey. As this one goes after Patrick he tears out of the building, locking it in. Heading home on his snowmobile he’s followed by the escaped zombie. Nearing home he fires off his gun, trying to alert Jack. When the zombie knocks him off the snowmobile, Jack hesitates shooting it. Patrick survives but at a cost.

Now with the knowledge that the zombies have adapted the two houses must unite if they are to survive. They must find a way to get over whatever it was that happened in the past. The secrets from those days unknown to us, the viewers, will eventually be revealed. The possibility of other survivors is always considered. And the last hope for a future rest in the combined efforts of two men who have grown apart over the years and a little girl who wants nothing more than for them to unite and find others.

What makes this movie good is the same thing that makes THE WALKING DEAD good. That is while the story is framed in the world of zombies it isn’t about the zombies that is the center story involved. It is the story of humanity, what people do in the face of adversity to survive. It’s the story of two people who were once close as brothers but have drifted drastically apart. It is the story of a small girl raised in a world without others to play with, with no one but her father there to be by her side, who wants to feel safe and find a world like she’s heard of. What makes this and that series so special is that it focuses not on the killing creatures but on the human beings and what it takes to remain human under these conditions.

Both Donovan and Fox have proven they are extremely good actors. To carry off a series for more than a year speaks volumes. Both turn in fine performances here that make you long to find out what happened in the past. McColgan is the surprise here, a new young actress who carries off her role with apparent ease making the character believable and one that we care about. We root for her to find a better world than the one she lives in now.

If this movie played in theaters it was a limited run at best. It falls into that category of movies known as straight to DVD but in the select group of movies there that deserve more attention than they received to date. For horror fans you’ll find a new fun movie that you’ll want to add to your collection. For THE WALKING DEAD fans you’ll find a movie that will tide you over until the new season starts. And for everyone else you’ll find a movie that shows the best of what humans can be in the face of a world gone to seed. Definitely worth a watch.

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There are movies that are released that do little to no business when they appear in theater but are later discovered by movie fans around the world. Some achieve cult status and rise above the rest. Others bring back memories for a select few and garner the attention of die-hard genre fans. That seems to be the case with this film, a movie that has been hard to find for some time and now has a second chance thanks to Olive Films.

The movie opens with a young man filling his pockets with rocks and trying to drown himself in a lake in front of those swimming there. Taken to a mental hospital for treatment for suicide the patient, now known as John Doe (Zeljko Ivanek), starts off being looked over by Dr. Gail Farmer (Kathryn Harrold). It appears that he is suffering from amnesia and she’s trying to help restore his memory.

Gail’s colleague and supervisor Dr. Denman (Paul Freeman) wants to perform shock therapy on him to stimulate his brain to cure him of amnesia. Gail argues telling him that she thinks she’s making progress. As she begins to gain his trust strange things begin to happen. One night at home Gail hears someone break into her house and see John standing in her bedroom taking a necklace while she calls the police. When they arrive, he’s nowhere to be found, gone from the room without a trace and the necklace still there. Calling the hospital she’s told he’s there in his bed.

The story begins to turn from here as it moves from treating a patient with amnesia to discovering that he may possess an extremely high power of telepathy. When he dreams all around him dream as well, not something you want happening in a mental ward. The dreams begin to affect Gail as well as she begins to see various hallucinations including John’s mother telling her that he needs to be returned to her, that the two of them share a special bond found only between mother and child.

When things get out of hand Denman moves forward with the electro-shock therapy only to find himself and those helping him tossed into a mass hallucination caused by John. Realizing what is going on they change their form of therapy and attempt to help him unlock what he has hidden in his mind, why he has brought about this case of amnesia.

The movie plays well here drawing the viewer into the realm of madness but never quite letting you know at first just who is mad and who is in control. At times you might think all of this was in John’s head but in the next few minutes begin wondering, could it be that all of this is in Gail’s mind? Then out of the blue another possibility rises. Could none of this be caused by mental issues or telepathy at all? Is it possible that what we have here is a haunting? All is answered by the end of the film and not until the very end. Even then it’s left open to interpretation.

The production quality of the film is well made, especially set design. Rather than the glossy feel of most film hospitals this one has a sense of actually being a real hospital, off white to yellow wall paint and all. Nothing feels polished and spit shined. I haven’t seen a hospital set look this real since the George C. Scott film THE HOSPITAL back in 1971.

The actors all offer a convincing job as well portraying their characters without a sly grin or nod to the camera, instead making them real and adding that depth to them. For Ivanek this was his first major role. He’s since become a familiar face in numerous TV series though the odds are you won’t recognize him here being this young and with a full head of hair. Harrold as always does a great job offering a woman who cares about her patients and yet not playing it as some would with a romantic interest in the midst of it all. Why her career never rose higher than it did is beyond me.

Fans of this film will be thrilled to see it finally get the blu-ray release. Even the standard DVDs were hard to find on this title. It was even written about in HIDDEN HORROR, a collection of articles discussing forgotten horror films that fans thought deserved mention. My guess is that those fans along with the many who have read the book will be making it a point of picking this one up now that it’s received a decent release. They won’t be disappointed and neither will you if you decide to give this one a try.

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Believe it or not long ago there was no Lifetime network not to mention Lifetime Movies Network. Back in the day if you wanted to watch a movie that involved somewhat psycho spouses or troubled teens attempting to murder someone you did like most people did when it came to movies, you waited for one of those films to hit the local theater. That was the case with this film.

The movie stars then hot commodity Alicia Silverstone just off of the success of the film CLUELESS. Here she plays Jennifer, the babysitter for the Tucker family. On her way to sit for the Tucker’s she’s approached by Mark (Nicky Katt), an old boyfriend who still has the hots for her even though they parted some time back and she’s seeing someone new. She tells him to buzz off and heads for the Tucker’s.

Jennifer gets to the Tucker’s and starts to play with the kids while Dolly Tucker (Lee Garlington) finishes getting ready and telling her husband Harry (J.T. Walsh) to hurry up. Harry comes downstairs sans pants looking for them and gets a disapproving look from Dolly. It seems that Harry has the hots for the babysitter just like Mark does. Eventually the couple finish dressing and head out to a party.

Next we find Mark at the local diner where he comes across Jack (Jeremy London), Jennifer’s new boyfriend. Unfortunately for Jack he and Jennifer have recently had a fight and he’s looking for a way to spend time with her. With a little encouragement from Mark (as well as a few beers) he talks him into calling and asking her if he can come over. She turns him down and Mark offers to drive him over anyway.

Cut to the party the Tucker’s went to hosted by none other than Mark’s father Bill (George Segal). As the night progresses Harry begins to have fantasies about what he would do with Jennifer given the opportunity, everything from catching her with her boyfriend to finding her in the bathtub. The more he drinks, the more he insists he needs to go home for whatever reason. At the same time Dolly is drinking fast and furious as well and having her own fantasies about Bill.

Eventually all of these stories come to across one another and in the end a tragic event occurs. But until that time the movie is played more for minor giggles and teases in the various fantasies that almost all involved seem to have non-stop. Even the young pre-teen Tucker boy being babysat has thoughts of Jennifer in the bathtub.

Chances are when this film was released the anticipation of young teens hoping to catch a glimpse of Silverstone undressed were what drove them to theaters. Not enough did so to have this movie become a money-maker and that’s probably because word got out she was never seen nude. A quick glimpse of a waitress with Mark in a fantasy offered the only nudity and it was brief.

If this is the sort of movie you like, if you’re a big Lifetime network fan then you’ll have fun with this one as well. It’s not really a bad movie at all but it’s nothing spectacular either. Fans of Silverstone will want to pick it up to have a blu-ray copy on hand. The rise of her career petered out shortly after this and she went on to relatively smaller films before becoming an animal rights activist. So pick up a copy, have a beer or two and then share your own Silverstone fantasies if you like. They may be as amusing as this movie.

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