Film Review: Extinction - 2018
Format: Netflix Language: English Released 2018
Director: Ben Young
Starring: Michael Peña, Lizzy Caplan, Amelia Crouch, Erica Crouch
For my second movie in my insomnia enforced horror movie marathon, I went for a Sci-Fi Horror, just so I could have a totally different experience, as the amazing amount of paranormal inspired horror that is flooding the scene right now is wearing a little thin with me.
Right here we go; we are quickly introduced to the main characters that will be our guides through the film, again, a typical family set up. Hard working Father, Peter (Michael Peña) highly successful but slightly stressed loving Mother, Alice (Lizzy Caplan) and their two daughters, the 'rebellious' early teen, Hannah (Amelia Crouch) and the 'adorable' young Lucy (Erica Tremblay).
The film kicks off with a monologue from Peter over the top of a series of scenes that switch from normal life to an alien invasion and back to normal living. As it turns out, this is simply a nightmare and is one of many that are plaguing our protagonist, Peter. While he seemingly isn’t overly concerned at the start, we learn that his wife, Alice, is starting to worry about the frequency of them.
The first act of the film sets up just how much these dreams are affecting Peter, both in home life, with missing ‘family time’ and at work where he starts making mistake. Eventually after constant concern being express not only by Alice and his daughters but also by his boss, David (Mike Colter) and his best friend Phil (Michael Absalom), Peter finally books himself into a well-being centre.
Here he meets Chris, who, as it turns out, happens to be suffering the exact same nightmares as Peter. After a little bit of a conspiracy infused rant from Chris, Peter starts to wonder if they are indeed dreams or some sort of sign/vision about an impending disaster that will hit Earth. He leaves before seeing the doctor and then tries explaining this whole conspiracy theory to Alice. She, of course, is far from impressed with him and as they are about to have a party to celebrate her promotion, she asks him to act ‘normal’ for their friends. The scene really hammers home just how much all this is affecting the family life.
With his mind preoccupied, Peter spends most of the party alone on their apartment balcony, as the party draws to a close, he is joined by his friend Phil. Here, of course, is where that impending disaster kicks off in a seriously brutal and lightning fast way, one minute all is fine, the next, half the city is in ruins or on fire as the invading force clearly shows they have no intention of taking prisoners.
What follows is your typical sci-fi alien invasion, brought to life by some impressive effects, editing, sound and directing as well as some very strong cinematography, not to mention the fantastic acting. While all this kicks off, our family make their way to the factory where Peter works using his previous ‘visions’ as a guide. In the process, they take an alien prisoner and Alice suffers a life threatening injury.
Up until this point in the film, for me, it has been an extremely fun and enjoyable watch, really edge of the seat stuff, this is helped by some top acting from the cast playing the family as I've already mentioned. I truly deeply cared for them and even at one point, caught myself yelling at the screen (in a good way, unlike, say, ‘A Quiet Place’, where I couldn’t stop yelling at the family’s stupidity but that’s for another review!).
Yet, it hasn’t had any standout moments to set it apart from other films in this sub-genre, that is however, up until this point.
It is here, with Alice, seemingly dying, that the twist takes place and boy I didn’t see it coming. It was both breathtakingly powerful and wholly unexpected for me. As the editor started to rotate the shot upside down, enforcing the idea that Peter’s world was turned upside down in that moment, it also matched my own perception of the film which was flipped on its head in a split second.
I can’t say anything without giving away the twist, so I won’t, and while the films quickly returns to the family trying to escape the city, this small scene stood out as one of the best I’ve seen in a film for a long time. In his directing, Ben Young, in one swift moment is forcing you to question not only everything you have believed up until now in connection to the film characters and their world, but also makes you question what humanity is. What we stand for outside of the story playing out onscreen.
How would I deal with it if it happened to me? I can’t say, it would just knock the wind out of me and I would still be there, stunned, trying to work out my life and why I exist, which would no doubt lead to my death at the hand of the invading aliens.
While overall ‘Extinction’ is a solid but standard Sci-Fi Horror, the story-line makes this film stand out as a powerful statement, which if we look back at other defining Sci-Fi tales such as Alien or Blade Runner, for me means this film will be talked about and studied for years to come, quite likely becoming a cult classic as the aforementioned films did.
All in all, the technical side of the film was superb, the acting was top class, the sounds, SFXs, Editing, Directing and Cinematography were on another level, all coming together to create a believable living world. All this for me makes a Sci-Fi Horror do what it should do, in the sense that it asks questions from the viewer and forces us to engage with the characters on screen in ways other genres and sub-genres don’t.
Many of you may not agree with me, but in my opinion this film is not only a must watch for horror and sci-fi fans alike, but film lovers in general. If you have Netflix watch it now, if not grab a copy as soon as you can.