Typically, a dystopian disaster flick will narrow its focus to a single malady, charting the aftermath of an ecological cataclysm, a lethal pandemic, or a devastating monster attack. Jeff Renfroe’s The Colony, which would be worth calling one of the year’s worst films if a sizable amount of people were actually likely to see it, greedily tries to cram every dystopian curse into one misbegotten plot, resulting in something wildly disjointed, even if its pieces arguably connect.
The year is 2045, and via didactic voiceover from Sam (Kevin Zegers), we learn that the world has become a perpetual tundra because, as global warming hit its peak, and weather machines created to control it went kaput, “it started snowing and never stopped.” In the handsome young survivor’s colony, an underground fortress overseen by Briggs (Laurence Fishburne), there’s also the constant threat of the common cold, the direst sufferers of which must eventually choose to face the elements or take a bullet, often dislodged by trigger-happy, resident douchebag Mason (Bill Paxton). What’s more, the cast is ultimately forced to square off against zombie-esque cannibals, whose superhuman abilities, mutated physicality, and lack of speaking skills are all chalked up to the maddening effects of hunger.
Again, the conflicts in The Colony can technically all trace back to the issue du jour of climate change, but Renfroe and his trio of co-screenwriters opt to isolate each with such plodding, episodic assessment that any hope for cohesion is annihilated. For instance, the cannibal thingamajigs, which are found in a neighboring colony whose distress beacon prompts a search-and-rescue (one of countless attempts at Alien-saga homage), don’t show up until the midpoint, and their prior lack of presence makes a main character’s fend-them-off martyrdom seem exceptionally stupid.
Visually, the film presents some initially competent and largely convincing CGI, dressing its Canadian-air-force-base shooting location with a blizzard-y blanket of white and debris that’s staged as the fossils of humanity. But as things press on, and Renfroe incessantly resorts to wide shots that dwarf his characters to insect-size and render his settings generic, his vision feels more and more like a blank canvas that’s never filled. As for interiors, the director proves his casting of Fishburne was only part one of his Matrix adoration, as the industrial spaces are captured in pea-green hues so distractingly oppressive that it makes one long for the piss-yellow filters so favored by Steven Soderbergh.
Employing the lensing of frequent B-movie D.P. Pierre Gill, Renfroe displays some effectively scary use of light and shadow, but it’s a pleasure as fleeting as the movie’s few choice lines. “You know you’re screwed when even the rabbits won’t fuck,” says one of the colony’s biologists, fretting about the dwindling livestock that’s been helping the population survive. The colonists also preserve the seeds of tomatoes and other plants, in hopes of bringing them to the requisite unfrozen paradise that’s been rumored over the airwaves. Seeds The Colony may have; kernels of wisdom and logic, not so much.