Post-apocalyptic sci-fi flicks are a dime-a-dozen these days, especially thanks to the glut of poorly made CGI fests that currently make up a good chunk of the Syfy network’s schedule, which have, much like the network, itself, made a mockery of the genre. Every so often, however, a gem surfaces, and such is the case with the sci-if/horror hybrid The Colony.
In the not-too-distant future, the Earth is buried beneath a blanket of snow and ice as a result of a failed attempt to use mammoth weather modification devices to reverse the effects of global warming. With much of humanity wiped out by this second Ice Age, survivors have banded into small colonies beneath the frozen surface, harvesting crops, preserving precious seeds, and praying for a thaw most think will never come.
Colony 7 is currently on its last legs; its numbers reduced from hundreds to merely a few dozen by influenza. Once sick, its inhabitants are placed into quarantine where, if they show no sign of improvement, they are given the choice between a bullet to the head or “the long walk” in the snow. It’s not an ideal solution, but, for colony overseer Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) it’s the only thing that’s keeping his precious few citizens alive, and, having grown weary of killing his own people, he’s handed the task off to the mercurial Mason (Bill Paxton), who seems only too happy to pull the trigger.
Sam (Frozen’s Kevin Zegers), an orphan rescued years ago by Briggs, witnesses Mason executing one of the colony’s sick, denying him the choice between the bullet or the walk. He takes his concerns to Briggs, but the colony’s leader has bigger problems. It seems that they’ve lost contact with the nearby Colony 5; one of the few remaining colonies in their zone. Briggs puts together a search party that includes Sam and the young Graydon (Atticus Dean Mitchell), and the trio head for Colony 5, leaving Sam’s girlfriend (and “thaw” optimist), Kai (Charlotte Sullivan), in charge, much to Mason’s chagrin.
The day-long trek to Colony 5 is an uneventful one, but, when they arrive at the entrance to the massive underground complex, they discover a trail of blood as well as the acrid smell of smoke emanating from within. The trio cautiously descends into the bowels of Colony 5, where they happen upon a frazzled survivor named Leland (Julian Richings) who shows them a transmission they received from a distant colony who has managed to use the weather modification machines to create a thaw in their region. Excited, Briggs writes down the coordinates given in the transmission, but Leland warns that an expedition from Colony 5 had already attempted to travel there and never returned. However, something else did.
It soon becomes clear that whatever it is Leland is so afraid of still lurks below, so Briggs orders Sam and Graydon to grab whatever they can carry and get back to the surface. Leland, however, refuses to go, locking himself in the room in which they found him, and it’s not long before Briggs and the others discover why as they encounter a feral band of cannibals responsible for Colony 5’s demise.
Briggs and Sam narrowly escape, sealing the entrance to the dead colony, and begin their long trek home, but, the following morning, as they break camp, Sam discovers that they are not alone, as the cannibals have followed them, and it’s only a matter of time before they reach Colony 7.
The Colony starts out as something of a slow burn sci-fi/survival story, but, once the action shifts to Colony 5, the film quickly becomes a balls-out, ultra-bloody horror/action flick in the vein of John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars. This is a damned good looking flick, too, with very convincing special effects (both in terms of gore and the CGI work used to create the frozen world above ground), great, moody cinematography by Pierre Gill, and solid direction by Jeff Renfroe. For the second time in a week, I’ve seen a direct-to-DVD (it did have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatrical run) flick that, in my opinion, was more deserving of a wide theatrical release than the bulk of genre offerings in cinemas this year. Yeah, the film is essentially a rehash of a dozen other siege/survival flicks (it borrows liberally from everything from Alien and The Thing to John Ford westerns), but it’s very well made, and, save for a clunky voice over by Zegers and a bit of problematic pacing early on, The Colony is a really fun, tense, and gloriously bloody little film.
Image Entertainment unthaws The Colony on Blu-ray and presents it in a 2.35:1 transfer that’s crisp and teeming with fine detail. The color scheme is mostly that sickly Saw green that’s so prevalent in horror movies these days, but it works here, especially given the artificial lighting sources of the titular colony. There are some moments where warmer colors kick in, as with reds of the emergency lights of Colony 5 and the film’s fiery finale, and the yellow/gold hues of the seed vault and gardens, where colonists preserve every precious seed in anticipation of a day when they can grow them under something other than UV lamps. Contrast is also spot on, especially evident in the above-ground scenes where bright whites and deep blacks are evenly presented, allowing for the details and colors of Briggs, Sam, and Graydon’s survival gear to pop. The film’s 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is rich and immersive, with nicely implemented surround effects, like the sound of footfalls echoing on concrete, dripping water, and the buzzing of fluorescents above. Bass is robust, and dialogue is crisp, clear, and mixed front and center.
Extras are sadly limited to a short Behind-the-Scenes featurette (HD) and trailers for other Image releases (HD).
The Colony isn’t “smart” sci-fi, and it doesn’t really try to be, setting up the rules of its universe early and in a brief (and rather ill-advised) voiceover, leaving the rest of the film to set the stage for a bloody, action packed second half that delivers the goods. This isn’t a classic, but it’s certainly well-above your average direct-to-video fare, and fans of the aforementioned Ghosts of Mars (and even Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13) will find a lot to love about this one. Recommended!