Most post-apocalyptic thrillers take place in the hot, dusty ruins of a society destroyed by war or nuclear fallout. If you can give The Colony (in theaters September 20; On Demand now) any credit for originality, it’s that its bleak future was created when one day it started snowing… and just never stopped. In some ways, the movie reminds me of an offshoot from The Day After Tomorrow (2004), minus the blockbuster budget.
It’s somewhat impressive that The Colony accomplishes what it does so well; it’s not restricted in scope by what I assume is a limited independent budget. Fortunately (or unfortunately, based on your view), it does so with an abundance of CGI. The biggest complaint I hear about CGI is that “it takes you away from the reality of the movie”. That’s a moot point here because a frozen wasteland of abandoned buildings half buried in snow is not real… yet.
In fact, I thought the representation of the landscape, especially a giant bridge, brittle and collapsing from its years of exposure, was pretty good. If anything is annoying, it’s the constant snow. Depending on the perspective of the camera, that can sometimes look a little fake.
Boasting an “all-star cast”, The Colony maximizes its resources by using its actors sparingly. Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton are indeed featured; however, their screen times are creatively manipulated to co-star durations. That makes the real star of the movie Kevin Zegers (Frozen), an appealing young man whose face is probably familiar to straight-to-DVD audiences and who I always refer to as “a poor man’s Ian Somerhalder”.
None of these behind-the-scenes facts matter if the story is good. And the beginning of The Colony shows promise. “When Colony 7 receives a distress call from a nearby settlement, Sam (Zegers) and Briggs (Fishburne) race through the snow on a dangerous rescue mission.” True. And the early scenes are exciting as the two men make their way through the elements and across the aforementioned bridge. But that’s when the movie starts having problems.
“What they find at the desolate base could mean mankind’s salvation – or its total annihilation.” Hmmm… not so much. I was very disappointed with The Colony after this point. For me, the threat was nothing special, and it therefore made the resulting challenge less threatening. Potential spoiler: the movie becomes like a Mad Max on ice. I was hoping for higher stakes and more creative challenges and consequences.
Instead, it’s totally average through its conclusion. The Colony is directed by Jeff Renfroe, whose only notable genre experience is a 2009 TV movie called Sand Serpents and four episodes of Being Human. He seems quite competent here, so the problems must lie with the screenplay by Patrick Tarr. who has less on his resume than Renfroe.
That’s not to say The Colony is a bad movie. It’s just average, with no particular reason to recommend it. With independent film, sometimes average is good and sometimes it’s bad. Here, average is just average. Make of that what you will.