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Saturday, November 2, 2013

DVD Review: The Colony

The Colony is a post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film, in which survivors of a new ice age band together against the elements, and against each other. It stars Kevin Zegers as Sam, the unlikely hero; Laurence Fishburne as Briggs, the conscientious leader of Colony 7; and Bill Paxton as Mason, a man who served with Briggs and now is perhaps going a bit mad.

The opening shots are of an underground bunker, eerily empty of people. Soon we become aware of distant sounds of distress, and then suddenly see two people running from someone or something. It cuts to the exterior of another bunker, where Hal, a sick man, is brought out into the snow. Against the protests of Sam, Mason executes Hal to keep him from infecting the rest of the colony.

This is a great way of establishing two of the main characters, as well as the situation they are up against. Sam gives us a bit of the background in voice over: “In this place, we live in fear of the common cold. The last flu wiped out twenty people in less than a week. So now we’ve got rules.” This is great, because we have more information than the characters. While they’re afraid of something so common, we know also there is something larger out there for them to fear. Sam’s voice over ends with the line: “But it’s not the cold we have to worry about – it’s each other.”

This group receives an S.O.S. from Colony 5, and Briggs leads a small team to check on those folks. Sam and a young, eager man volunteer to accompany Briggs. It’s a two-day journey for those three to reach the other colony, and they spend the first night inside an old helicopter, giving Sam and Briggs a chance to let us in on a little more of the characters’ back stories (and letting us know that they will have to stay there again on the way back).

When they reach Colony 5, there is blood in the snow leading to the entrance. And then there is a long ladder leading down inside. That’s frightening enough right there, because you know they’re going to have to climb back up – and you can only go so fast on a ladder. Once they get inside, the film gets a whole lot scarier. We know this is the place of the opening shot, where those two people were chased. We just don’t know yet what it was they were afraid of.

A knocking sound leads the three to a supply room, the door of which has been repeatedly banged and scratched at, as if someone or something was quite eager to gain access. Inside, the team finds a terrified survivor. They ask him, “Is anyone else alive?” He responds, “Define alive.” In addition to that cryptic response, he gives them hope by showing them a message the colony had received from someone who had fixed a weather tower, breaking a hole through the cloud layer.

But soon the Briggs and the other two learn what it was that frightened that couple in the beginning of the film, and need to make a hasty retreat themselves.

The film creates a wonderfully frightening atmosphere – the dangerous cold temperatures, the isolation, the fear of sickness, the claustrophobia of being underground most of the time. And then adds to that an extreme case of people losing their humanity. The film’s weakness is its reliance on CGI shots for most of the exteriors, some of which just don’t look believable.

Bonus Feature

The DVD includes “The Colony: Behind The Scenes,” which features interviews with Kevin Zegers, Bill Paxton, Laurence Fishburne, Charlotte Sullivan, Jeff Renroe (the director) and Pierre Gill (the director of photography). Laurence Fishburne says he hasn’t done anything this physical in a while, and that is one of the reason he said yes to this project. And we see a lot of the green screens used, and just how small some of the sets actually were. What’s more interesting, however, is the underground location shooting. This feature is approximately ten minutes.

The Colony was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 15, 2013 through RLJ Entertainment.

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