The Colony is a sharp-looking survival thriller that’s actually a zombie movie in disguise. The baddies here aren’t technically zombies, but they’re set up just be be mowed down and massacred much like they are in the horror fare that’s so popular today. At least they’re slaughtered in an interesting environment – one that harkens back to claustrophobic terrors like Aliens and the more recent film The Divide. But The Colony suffers from too many half-assed ideas, unfortunately, making the showdown at the end feel terribly anti-climactic. It’s got a lot going for it, especially the terrific cast, but in the end it’s nothing more than a glossy cinematic shrug.
Following another ice age, the surviving humans form colonies and shack up inside industrial-looking outposts. One such location is headed up by Briggs (Laurence Fishburn), a natural leader trying his damndest to keep everyone from killing one another under the extreme circumstances. Fishburn’s really good at this kinda role – he manages an authoritative tone without sounding like a dick. If he wasn’t acting he’d be a great shift manager at Starbucks.
One of the biggest issues at Briggs’ colony is the way they’re handling sick people. In the past, a flu bug killed off a bunch of people, so they’re not screwing around when it comes to the sniffles. When someone is confirmed sick, they have the option of walking off into the icy wasteland, where they’ll surely freeze to death, or taking a bullet to the head. The colony executioner, Mason (Bill Paxton), is starting to jump the gun, literally. Rather than give people a choice, he’s bucking them down on sight. Paxton is wonderfully menacing as Mason. Even if he does have the best intentions, he displays the first evidence of shrinking humanity.
The loss of humanity and how far we’ll go to survive are the big themes in the film. These ideas don’t really break the surface though when hordes of feral, blood-thirsty humans are you’re only enemy. C’mon, of course ya gotta kill those bastards. See, the colony gets a distress signal from a neighboring settlement. Unable to contact them, Briggs and two others head over to see what’s what. When the team arrives at the other colony, they find humans who have been inexplicably reduced to a pack of frothing cannibals.
They also come across a huge revelation that could possibly lead to the end of the crippling ice age. But instead of exploring this life-saving progression, The Colony makes it pointless by completely tossing it aside in favor of a dull chase-kill-chase-kill formula. None of the ideas and conflicts brought up in the film are ever really explored, which significantly lowers the stakes of the action. If writer/director Jeff Renfroe had stuck with one idea – dehumanization of colonists, feral cannibals, thawing salvation, how Laurence Fishburn would make a great barista – and really dug into it, The Colony wouldn’t feel so trifling.
It’s not all garbage though. Like I mentioned earlier, the cast is great, including Kevin Zegers who plays Sam, the Florence Nightingale of the colony. He has some intense moments with Mason near the end as his character is transformed from reluctant hero to extreme survivalist. I’m not sure what the significance of his arc is – it muddles the film’s loose message about humanity a bit – but it’s a pleasantly gory moment to watch. The world-building is terrific too. The filmmakers did a good job of creating an epic-scale with a small budget.
There isn’t anything to really sink your teeth into though. The Colony presents a lot of ideas, then fails to address them in any meaningful way. It’s a forgettable survival horror flick that wants to be a heady sci-fi thriller. It had potential but it’s squandered so a bunch of snarling cannibals can get slaughtered. Ah well.
The Colony is presented in 1080p in 2.35:1 widescreen. This is a dark film with some deep, deep shadows. The Blu-ray’s crisp contrast highlights them nicely. Detail is great as well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track displays nice range – both inside the echoey industrial colony and outside, where the wind howls. Nothing particularly good stands out in the audio, but it’s a perfectly fine track.
The only feature is a 10-minute look behind the scenes. This is your pretty standard BTS, with the actors talking about their characters and why they were interested in the project.