The Colony (2013) / Sci Fi-Horror
MPAA Rated: R for strong, bloody violence, gore, disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan, Dru Viergever, Atticus Mitchell, John Tench, Lisa Berry
Director: Jeff Renfroe
Screenplay: Jeff Renfroe, Patrick Tarr, Pascal Trottier, Svet Rouskov
Review published September 4, 2013
The Colony posits a near future for Earth in which it is all but completely snowed over, after humans create massive weather-altering machines to combat global warming that end up going too far, permanently, in cooling the planet. As Fishburne's (Predators, 21) character named Briggs states, "One day it started to snow - and it never stopped." The few humans left who haven't died from exposure to the harsh elements have taken to living in giant underground shelters, dubbed "colonies", and Briggs is the head of Colony 7, though his control is beginning to become tenuous of late, as the upstart Mason (Paxton, Haywire) would rather stop coddling the sick they're supposed to be quarantining and just put a bullet in the head of anyone who gets an infection that threatens the colony. When a distress signal comes in from another colony, Briggs is on the case, taking along the trustworthy Sam (Zegers, It's a Boy Girl Thing) and Graydon (Mitchell, "My Babysitter's a Vampire") to accompany him out into the cold to see what's going on many miles away.
The Colony is a Canadian production, but the tech specs are still quite nice for a green-screened affair. Reportedly, the main set of the colonies comes from an old Cold-War era NORAD facility in North Bay, Ontario. It is competently directed by Jeff Renfroe (Civic Duty, One Point O) most of the way, though it's a head-scratcher to see four names attached to a screenplay that has a relatively simple premise, plus so few characters and moments of dialogue. The film starts off relatively well when it is in science fiction-thriller mode, as we come to learn about the dystopian vision of Earth under ice, and the inner workings of the colonies, where bees, plants and other animals are harvested in order to feed an ever-hungrier human population. The potential spread of disease in close quarters that could wipe out the entire colony makes for some interesting internal politics, and just learning how the colony operates is mildly fascinating in and of itself. As the trio of men leave the confines, it becomes more of an adventure tale, where we learn what has happened to a good portion of humanity since the freeze. Had the film been more about that, perhaps climaxing in a struggle for the fate of Colony 7, it might be a nifty b-movie with quality performances, nice effects, and solid locale work.
Alas, the film goes off the rails about halfway through, and never recovers. What was once a respectable survival tale becomes a run-of-the-mill survivalist horror b-movie, full of the same devolution of humanity zombie nightmares that have been clogging up the cinemas for the last several years. It's not adequately explained from a scientific angle why the group of raving mad humans they stumble upon would become so feral that they have lost the ability to communicate verbally in the two decades or so of their existence, including having their teeth altered to fang-like sharp edges. If the swift speed of the degenerate cannibals isn't enough to remind you of the infected in 28 Days Later, the nearly identical electronic riffs in the score just might. It's as if they made half of a movie trying to make something a little bit different than the norm (though it does often remind me of the 'Fallout' video game series), then just said, "To hell with it", and made a carbon copy mash-up of at least a dozen better films (Why are films about cannibals often so cannibalistic?). It's not only redundant, but the need to make a "Boss" cannibal is perhaps the biggest misstep among many, as he himself looks like an amalgam bad guy, as if they spliced the genes of one of the creeps in I Am Legend with Kurgan from Highlander.
The Colony still features a decent performance from Laurence Fishburne, but, alas, during scenes he is not a part of, which are quite a few, his presence is sorely missed. Not that the rest of the actors are bad, but they just don't ground the film the way Fishburne can. Paxton is fine in a relatively small supporting role, but it's a part that doesn't necessitate much out of the veteran actor, other than to be an unreasonable jerk, something we've seen him do in many movies since Weird Science. Outside of the appearance of these actors, some decent (for its budget) effects, and the unique look of the ready-made sets, The Colony is a middling effort that will likely only appeal the entire way through to those viewers who feast on dark and bloody horror b-movies as part of their regular entertainment diet.
©2013 Vince Leo