The Colony (2013)
I grew up a major league fan of post-apocalyptic movies. As a boy, I remember watching Charlton Heston in THE OMEGA MAN, and I would spend my summer mornings waking up at dawn and bicycling around the empty streets of Bayside, Queens, pretending I was Robert Neville hunting mutants. It appealed to me, the notion of having the world to myself. You know, except for mutants. Later on, I’d get to watch DAWN OF THE DEAD, and then MAD MAX 2/THE ROAD WARRIOR, and my collection of favourite post-apoc movies grew. I almost wrote a non-fiction book on the history of them, starting with the silent era and leading up to the many Italian rip-offs of MAD MAX and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. I collected a shitload of materials, notes and pictures, but never got around to it.
THE COLONY, a 2013 Canadian film written and directed by Jeff Renfroe (BEING HUMAN), is not related to the TV reality show of the same name, is in many ways a throwback to the post-apocalyptic movies I grew up with, especially the ones made in the Seventies, when our fear of an atomic holocaust was briefly eclipsed by the knowledge that we were fucking up our environment with pollution and genetically-modified foods (thank God we don’t do that sort of thing nowadays. Ahem…).
THE COLONY is set in 2045, decades after humanity, in a bid to reverse global warming, tried using some sort of weather modification grid, one which backfired and threw the entire Earth into an eternal global freeze. Pockets of the human race have survived underground in colonies, barely surviving on what they can grow or forage from the ruins of the nearby cities. Colony Seven is led by the paternal Briggs (Laurence Fishburne, THE MATRIX), though his command is all but challenged on a constant basis by his security chief Mason (Bill Paxton, ALIENS). Medicines are scarce and people’s immune systems are weak, so anyone who contracts even the slightest cold must go into quarantine, though Mason prefers the “shoot them in the head now” approach favoured by psychopaths and Tea Party espousers.
Sam (Kevin Zegers, who played one of the security guards in the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake) prefers Briggs’ more merciful policies, as does Sam’s girlfriend Kai (Charlotte Sullivan, ROOKIE BLUE), who somehow still looks amazingly gorgeous despite being stuck underground for decades. So when a nearby colony sends out an SOS, Briggs brings along Sam, leaving Kai in charge, with assurances that when he gets back, he’ll remove Mason from his current position.
When I watched this happen, my eyes rolled so far in the back of my head that I actually saw my temporal lobes (and they were fucking gorgeous, by the way). Mason has all but declared to all and sundry that he was ready to instigate a coup, and the one guy who could quell this before it happens decides to leave for several days before doing something about it? And leaves the place in the hands of someone who obviously hoards mascara and waxing strips, too?
Anyway, Briggs’ party makes their way across the barren wastelands to Colony Five, where they find one survivor, who has survived long enough to pass on some heavy exposition: 1) there’s a place south where people have found a way to make the weather temperate again in their area, but they need seeds, seeds that Colony Seven can conveniently provide.
Oh, and 2) A cannibal gang has invaded, killed and eaten everyone else here in Colony Five. And they’re still here.
Personally, I would have led with 2), but what do I know?
Briggs and his party stumble on the cannibals, led by one mean-looking mother (Dru Viergever, SAW 3D, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD), and the Colony Seven party barely escapes, but with the Cannibals in pursuit…
There is very little, if actually nothing about THE COLONY that is original. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, when it’s done right, and to its credit I kept watching throughout, so it couldn’t have been that bad. Most of the interiors were shot at this decommissioned NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) base in North Bay, Ontario, and it does feel genuinely authentic. Fishburne lends the role the gravitas and maturity it needs, though Paxton is pretty much wasted in his one-note role.
Dru Viergever, without having one line of dialogue, does volumes with expressions of feral menace, and he does look frightening (though it gets confusing as to whether or not these are just cannibals, or infected with something or even zombies, though they’re smart enough to stay dressed for the weather, and seem fairly organised despite seemingly not speaking to each other throughout). The exteriors are all CGI, but fare better than the standards you usually get on the SyFy channel. And there are moments of blood and gore that you don’t normally expect on SyFy, though these moments are sporadic.
But again, as you watch it, you feel like it’s cobbled together with parts from other movies, like some device the survivors have assembled from other machines; even the music at times is reminiscent of THE THING or 28 DAYS LATER. Even if you’re not as familiar with films of the genre as the rest of us geeks, you’ll get that recycled feeling.
THE COLONY is on DVD in the UK and is due for release soon in the US. The trailer is below.
Director: Jeff Renfroe (also writer)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. It’ll never tell abotu what happened on that night, long ago…