If you’re already feeling nostalgic for the blizzards of March, by all means get yourself to the multiplex to see The Colony. Otherwise, this inert sci-fi horror feature offers little more than another kind of unwelcome familiarity: With an American director, Jeff Renfroe, and import stars Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton heading up a derivative quasi-Canadian genre flick, it’s reminiscent of the more embarrassing excesses of the tax-shelter movies of 30 years ago.
The script, with four writing credits, is a mix and match of ideas from other sources, ranging from The Thing to 28 Days Later. In a mine shaft beneath the frozen surface of the Earth (the gloomy claustrophobic set, a decommissioned NORAD base in North Bay, is the film’s best asset), a colony of survivors lives off a dwindling reserves of hydroponic vegetables and bunnies, under the paternal leader Briggs (Fishburne).
Here, the common cold is a disease requiring instant quarantine and, when the sufferers don’t recover, they face the choice of exile into the frozen wasteland or a bullet through the head from totalitarian-leaning security chief Mason (Bill Paxton), who threatens to usurp his boss. Among the few dozen survivors in this bunker are a young protagonist, Sam (Gossip Girl’s Kevin Zegers), who occasionally provides voice-over exposition, and his model-pretty girlfriend, Kai (Charlotte Sullivan).
When they learn that a nearby colony is in trouble, Briggs leads a squad to investigate. They discover that the colony has been repurposed as an abattoir by a horde of feral cannibalistic humans, led by a lank bald guy with filed teeth (Dru Viergever). These unspeaking, implacably voracious creatures are, in essence, zombies, although the plot never bothers establishing them as such.
When the remaining members of the rescue team retreat back home, they discover that power-mad Mason has seized control, just before the onslaught. The film’s final third, accompanied by an over-excited electronic music loop, sees howling cannibals and colonists running down hallways and chasing each other through ducts.
In the movie’s favour, everything looks authentically chilly throughout, and the climactic mano-a-mano between Sam and the cannibal chief achieves a modest frisson of ickiness. Still, there’s nothing going on here that wouldn’t be improved with a game controller in hand and a running body count in the corner of the screen.