DVD Review: The Colony

Originally published on So So Gay on 21 January 2014.

Set in 2045, The Colony finds the Earth in the aftermath of an incessant snow storm; whether it has been caused by global warming remains unclear. Focused on Colony 7, an outpost of survivors based in a bunker set-up, the harsh reality of their existence is immediately apparent, as one ill survivor is escorted outside to be put out of his misery. The film’s main focus is Sam (Kevin Zegers), a strong-minded individual, and who has a father-son dynamic with the colony’s leader, Briggs (Laurence Fishburne). While going about the daily grind of merely surviving in the hostile environment that Earth has become, Colony 7 suddenly receives an SOS from their neighbouring camp, Colony 5, but who then become unresponsive to further radio contact. Briggs, along with Sam, decides to go investigate what has happened to their fellow survivors…

Starting with the positives, in the film’s favour is its polished finish and very successful depiction of the Arctic-like world that the entire planet has become – you almost want to wrap up warm while watching it. For this type of film, The Colony really ought to contain more of them, but there are one or two solid thrills. When Briggs’ team finally reach Colony 5 and happen upon what prompted them to send out the distress signal, the tension is nicely built up beforehand through the music and scenery. The casting of Fishburne was a smart move, as he brings his own natural charmisma to Briggs and gives him some automatic gravitas – in fact, most of the above ‘Acting’ score is down to Fishburne. Zegers is a nice bit of eye candy, and is a competent if not overly captivating choice as the film’s main protagonist.

The acting throughout the film isn’t actually bad per se, just rather unremarkable. In defence of the cast, though, they don’t have much to work with. The paper-thin plot that has next to no character development and minimal dialogue – many of the faces that appear on screen seem liked they would bring extra colour to the story, but we unfortunately never get to find out.

Beyond a minor bit of back-story given to Sam, the film’s characters are painted in the very broadest of strokes and you’re lucky if you find out their names – Sam’s relationship with fellow survivor Kai (Charlotte Sullivan) is almost completely irrelevant and feels like it was included ‘just because’. Colony 7 leaders Briggs and Mason (Bill Paxton) are given the briefest of outlines as military personnel, and are seen knocking heads from the off, being almost the antithesis of each other. It later transpires they have a shared previous experience of the negative impact this catastrophic event can have on people, so it doesn’t quite ring true that they are now such opposites with regard to being in charge.

While horror films are as much about the thrills and spills as they are about the characters, some added depth to the main clutch of protagonists is always beneficial so that the audience actually invests in their safety – unless you’re a gore fiend. However, even on that front The Colony doesn’t succeed, apart from one grisly death towards the end of the film. The film in general somehow manages to lack much in the way of tension, beyond a couple of fleeting moments.

The problem is that, even at its relatively short run-time of 94 minutes, The Colony feels padded with regard to content. It takes the first third of the film before the three-man band sets out to investigate the distress signal from the neighbouring colony. There are also a couple of plot holes that undermine the already threadbare story. Exploring the negative effect an extreme catastrophe could have on human behaviour has been covered many times before and with far better execution. Unfortunately, The Colony brings absolutely nothing new to the table, from either in terms of social commentary or from an artistic perspective.

The film concludes at a point that would lend itself incredibly easily to a sequel, should the success of The Colony deem it a worthwhile consideration. That said, if this does occur, one can only hope a better team of writers is drafted in, along with more charismatic actors like Fishburne.

It’s a rather underwhelming viewing experience, but if you want an unchallenging yet glossy horror film to kill 90 minutes of your time, then there are worse films out there than The Colony – just go in with your expectations low and brain set in neutral.

The Colony is out now on DVD and can be purchased from Amazon. All images courtesy of Fetch Publicity.

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