THE COLONY plunges into the near future, where global warming has finally gone and done what the naysayers are constantly warning us of: brought about a new ice age.

Humanity is therefore on the verge of collapse. Beneath the snowy terrain of an unspecified land, a group of survivors live in a bunker known as Colony 7. Their leader, Briggs (Laurence Fishburne), is a level-headed guy with a firm but fair approach to his people. His right-hand man and former military colleague, Mason (Bill Paxton), has designs on taking Briggs' place - which would only be a bad thing, as his attitude is a lot more brutal: witness his proposed action against anyone within their clan who's unfortunate enough to suffer from the flu...

The group receive a distress signal from another bunker, Colony 5, following a period of no communication from them whatsoever. Briggs is quick to ask for two volunteers and then sets about the arduous task of travelling to the troubled bunker on foot. It's a testing two-day journey just getting there, but when they finally arrive at Colony 5 Briggs and men are alarmed to find the place largely deserted. Even more alarming, is a sole male survivor sweating profusely and babbling incoherently about being attacked.

As savage screams are heard from within the bunker's darkest corners, Briggs and company realise they've got to get out of Colony 5 quickly. Making their way through the bunker's labyrinthine corridors and to a large holding area, they encounter a communal dining scenario that's not unlike a scene from DAWN OF THE DEAD. It soon transpires that their foes are ... demented cannibals!

It's a little unfair to give much more away, as by this point we're just over halfway into co-writer/director Jeff Renfroe's film. Suffice it to say, those who survive the ensuing fight make it back to Colony 7 but with a horde of hungry savages in tow. Sam (Kevin Zegers) comes to the fore as the reluctant hero; Mason ups his ante and proves himself to be a properly power-mad villain ... and things finally get going.

THE COLONY has an interesting premise and a notably decent cast. Also, working with a rumoured $16 million budget, it has to be said that the film also looks impressive on frequent occasion. But looks aren't everything.

Snowy landscapes and isolated terror immediately bring to mind THE THING. The comparisons are unavoidable, and unfortunate. Because THE THING is so much more haunting, more involving and more terrifying than anything Renfroe can muster from an overly familiar screenplay and a bunch of stereotypical, hackneyed characters.

Matters are not assisted by a lack of pace in the film's first half. Things do really feel restrained here, to the point that Pierre Gill's lovely cinematography and Aidan Leroux's derivative (ALIEN, THE THING ...) production design really are the only things that stop you from switching off.

Paxton and Fishburne are reliable leads and both perform as expected here. But Zegers betters them, in a role that could hopefully lead to bigger and better things for him. But the script, silly and corny as it is, is their constant enemy. It's all played so seriously too - there is no humour - that all the philosophical musings and technical jargon just end up sounding even more daft.

The second half is more action-packed, and the budget is shown off more here with a few explosions, well-choreographed chase scenes and set-pieces of minor flesh-eating gore. The FX are good throughout, as is the general look of the bunkers and their maze-like walkways. I didn't get the claustrophobic feeling that I sense Renfroe was going for, but my eyes did appreciate the aesthetic value of a big budget snowbound set ablaze with colour-filtered lights. Yes, there is some CGI, but even that's handled pretty well.

THE COLONY isn't a great film, then. But nor is it a disaster. On the contrary, it's good-looking and filled with points of merit. It's just that, perhaps, we've seen too many post-apocalyptic horror-thrillers of late for one to come along that offers nothing new.

Picture quality on Entertainment One's DVD is excellent. The film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio gives the beautiful cinematography a really epic, cinematic feel, while strong colour schemes and fine detail ensure this is consistently pleasing to the eye. The picture is enhanced for 16x9 televisions.

English audio is provided in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. For a really sweeping, theatrical experience, the extra channels do make the Dolby surround option very worthwhile.

Optional English subtitles are also provided for the Hard-of-Hearing. Given that THE COLONY is set in a snowy environment, it's heartening to report that these are easy to read at all times.

There's only one bonus feature on offer. It's a frantic 9-minute Behind The Scenes featurette, complete with cast and crew interviews interspersed between clips from the completed film. The on-set footage is limited in truth, but getting soundbites from the likes of Fishburne and Paxton keeps this feature entertaining.

Entertainment One's DVD opens to one of the brightest animated main menu pages I've seen in some time. From there, a static scene-selection menu allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

The DVD is defaulted to open with trailers for INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2, RIDDICK, the WE ARE WHAT WE ARE remake, and METALLICA: THROUGH THE NEVER.

While perhaps a little average to be remembered with any real fondness, THE COLONY is at least an undemanding way of spending 90 minutes - and looks great for the entirety of its duration. The casting is good, the concept is promising ... it's just the execution that's a little sedate, and derivative.

By Stuart Willis

Released by Entertainment One
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review