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An endangered band of survivors in the next ice age encounters a bigger threat than disease and starvation in Jeff Renfroe‘s The Colony. With a frost-bitten script whose skeletal plot cuts and pastes bits from innumerable other survival yarns, the biggest surprise the film offers is that four people were required to write it. The presence of Bill Paxton and Laurence Fishburne will likely help VOD numbers, but the pic’s theatrical release should fare only a little better than RLJ/Image Entertainment’s recent megabomb Stranded, a similarly derivative and lifeless sci-fi flick starring Christian Slater.
Fishburne and Paxton play old Army comrades who now lead Colony 7, buried deep inside a seed-bank bunker that allows them to grow hydroponic food. A glimpse of a bee colony down there draws real-world comparisons to this human group’s own version of colony collapse disorder: “The last flu wiped out 20 people,” we’re told in voiceover, and even a sneeze is enough to get someone quarantined, then marched out into the snow to die.
When a distress call comes in from Colony 5, Briggs (Fishburne) takes Sam (Kevin Zegers) along in his rescue team. But there’s no one to rescue at the end of their trek through the snow — just a band of cannibals who discovered this bunker and have turned its inhabitants into a banquet. As the search party races back home, their footprints are a convenient map to the flesh-eaters’ next windfall.
Here’s a little known fact: When humans turn to cannibalism in an ice-age scenario, they lose the capacity for speech, instead communicating grumpiness in a language of threatening wheezy noises. (They also file their teeth to fine points, though this fact has been better exposed in recent years.) Devoid of menacing intellect, the feral humans are just chase-and-chomp machines, well suited for action sequences that always seem to take place in rooms illuminated by shorting-out electric light or flickering flame.
CGI depictions of newly ice-covered cities are unconvincing, though a central standoff on a falling-apart bridge works reasonably well. Tension between colony leaders over how to deal with their sick (a great deal is made over group rules that allow them to choose the method of their death) generates only superficial tension before the cannibals come knocking.
Production Company: Alcina Pictures, Item 7, Mad Samurai
Cast: Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan, Dru Viergever
Director: Jeff Renfroe
Screenwriters: Jeff Renfroe, Patrick Tarr, Pascal Trottier, Svet Rouskov
Producers: Paul Barkin, Marie-Claude Poulin, Pierre Even, Matthew Cervi
Executive producers: Noah Segal, Mark Slone, Marc Schaberg, Peter Graham, Jeff Renfroe
Director of photography: Pierre Gill
Production designer: Aidan Leroux
Music: Jeff Danna
Costume designer: Lea Carlson
Editor: Aaron Marshall
No rating, 94 minutes
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