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Film Review: ‘The Colony’

A zombie by any other name is still a zombie in this utterly routine horror pic.

With:

Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan, Dru Viergever, Atticus Mitchell, John Tench, Lisa Berry, Lucius Hoyos, Kimberly-Sue Murray, Michael Mando, Helen Taylor, Romano Orzari, John Healy, Kristin Shepherd, Sten Eirik, Julian Richings.

Utterly routine futuristic horror-thriller “The Colony” substitutes the term “ferals” for plain old zombies (the modern, fast-moving kind), and that’s about it for originality. This Canadian production has been playing various territories since spring; low-profile U.S. theatrical opening Sept. 20 will at least raise awareness for home-format distrib, with VOD already available.

Mankind apparently messed around with the weather in an attempt to slow global warming, with the undesired effect that, as Kevin Zegers’ protag puts it, “One day it started snowing, and it never stopped.” Now Earth is a frozen wasteland with just a few humans surviving in underground complexes. (Pic was partly shot at a North American Aerospace Defense Command installation in Ontario.) The inhabitants of Colony 7 grow their own plants and livestock, although those efforts fare poorly enough to require strict rations.

Worse, the common cold has turned into a fatal epidemic, with those falling ill quarantined and usually put out of their misery before they can infect anyone else. Favoring the summary execution of anyone who so much as coughs is Mason (Bill Paxton), a budding fascist itching to wrest community leadership from more compassionate former military buddy Briggs (Laurence Fishburne).

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A distress call from a neighboring colony draws a small group to investigate. They find nary a soul alive, but plenty of blood splashed about — evidence, they soon realize, of cannibal assailants very much in residence. (They aren’t exactly dead, or “undead,” but as goons who chase people to eat them and yell “RRARRR!” a lot, distinctions between “feral” and “zombie” are too flimsy to mention.) Barely making it back, Zegers’ Sam tries to warn about the murderous swarm coming up hard behind him, to no avail — and now Briggs is in charge, which only makes matters worse.

It’s hard to pinpoint the flaws of a film like “The Colony,” which is professionally polished but so bereft of novelty and personality that you can practically forget the experience while you’re still watching it. The “feral” leader (Dru Viergever) looks like that guy in “The Hills Have Eyes,” as so many sci-fi/horror villains do; Sam gets a de rigeur tough girlfriend (Charlotte Sullivan); the action mostly consists of people running in terror or pummeling each other. The last act is so underwhelming that viewers might be somewhat surprised when the (very long) closing credits begin to roll, thinking surely there’s got to be more to it than that. Alas, no.

Perfs are decent given a complete lack of character detailing in the script, credited to four writers including competent helmer Jeff Renfroe. Paxton easily makes the strongest impression as the kind of garden-variety bully who thinks pointing a gun at the weak makes a true leader, yet turns coward in a heartbeat.

Some variable CG effects aside, the widescreen pic looks good despite unimaginative design contributions. Tech aspects are solid.

Film Review: 'The Colony'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Sept. 20, 2013. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 94 MIN.

Production:

(Canada) An Image Entertainment release of an Entertainment One and Sierra Pictures presentation of an Alcina Pictures, Item 7 and Mad Samurai production in association with 120dB Films. Produced by Paul Barkin, Marie-Claude Poulin, Pierre Even, Matthew Cervi. Executive producers, Noah Segal, Mark Slone, Marc Schaberg, Peter Graham, Jeff Renfroe. Co-producer, Cher Hawrysh.

Crew:

Directed by Jeff Renfroe. Screenplay, Renfroe, Pascal Trottier, Patrick Tarr, Svet Roukov, from a story by Trottier and Tarr. Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Pierre Gill; editor, Aaron Marshall; music, Jeff Danna; production designer, Aidan Leroux; art director, Rory Cheyne; set decorator, Joseph Susin; sound mixer (Dolby Digital), Herwig Gayer;  supervising sound editor, Pierre-Jules Audet; sound designer, Jean-Francois B. Sauve; re-recording mixer, Louis Gignac; first assistant director, Andrew Robinson; casting,
Sharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas.

With:

Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan, Dru Viergever, Atticus Mitchell, John Tench, Lisa Berry, Lucius Hoyos, Kimberly-Sue Murray, Michael Mando, Helen Taylor, Romano Orzari, John Healy, Kristin Shepherd, Sten Eirik, Julian Richings.

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