Jeff Renfroe’s The Colony (2013) paints a bleak picture of humanity’s future; a post-apocalyptic world where climate change has left the Earth shrouded in a permanent deluge of ice and snow. Starring Kevin Zegers and nineties action movie luminaries Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton, what at first promises to be a taut survival procedural soon reveals itself to be a far darker and carnivorous beast. Deep under the frozen Earth’s surface, Sam (Zegers) and what’s left of his dwindling human colony scrape by on meagre rations, dreaming of a global thaw that will lead to their ultimate return to the land above.
The common cold has overtaken hunger, depression and the big freeze as humanity’s most deadly predator – that is, until a distress call from a neighbouring colony signals a new terror. Briggs (Fishburne), the colony’s nominated leader, enlists Sam and eager protégé Graydon (Atticus Mitchell) for a recon mission. On arrival though, they’re shocked to discover a hole blasted in the wall and an ominous pool of blood, before swiftly learning of the horrible atrocities men are capable of when driven mad by hunger. A recognisable cast, some impressive effects and an engaging premise make The Colony an enticing prospect – a fact emphasised early on as we observe the dynamics of this fragile microcosm of society.
Paxton (of Aliens, Predator 2 and True Romance fame) puts in an admirable performance as Mason, the colony’s outspoken opponent to Briggs’ diplomatic rule, fleshing out what is an initially intriguing study of a society forced to rebuild itself from scratch. Sadly, these concepts are never truly developed, cast aside in order to make way for the film’s derivative second act in which the discovery of flesh-eating, carnivorous nasties turn this societal Petri dish into an unimaginative and benign zombie movie. A rotting cocktail of dystopian calamities served ice cold on a bed of anodyne set-pieces and artificial testosterone, Renfroe’s film feels like a composite of various lift pitches careless embroiled into one gigantic mess of a film.
Science fiction has often been used to intelligently engage with contemporary issues, yet here the unrelenting snowstorm topside is perhaps the most obvious climate change metaphor you could possibly imagine. Horror on the other hand, especially the zombie sub-genre, has similarly aimed to show how the malaise of a society in decline can infect a normally civilised world. Unfortunately, it would appear that a diet of human flesh does little for your intelligence. Thus, a decent setup is rendered redundant by a host of ridiculous plot twists and illogical decisions. The Colony, despite its familiar cast, lacks both the satirical bite required of a flesh-eater fable and the intellect demanded from a dystopian sci-fi thriller.