The Colony (2013): Violence on Ice

Film Poster for The Colony
The 2013 film The Colony, starring Lawrence Fishburne (Hannibal, Predators) Bill Paxton (Agents of SHIELD, Nightcrawler) and Kevin Zegers (Gossip Girl, Dawn of the Dead) is about a second ice age caused by man’s tinkering with the planet’s global warming issues and survivors holding out against the big freeze. Directed and co-written by Jeff Renfroe (Sand Serpents, Civic Duty) The Colony is a post apocalyptic horror story set in the frozen remains of civilization that turns into a violence on ice escapade rather than pure science fiction.

The few groups of humanity that have survived do so underground. In Colony 5, Briggs (Fishburne) runs the population fairly but disease is a constant worry and his second in command, Mason (Paxton) has to eliminate the sick before they can spread the contamination and endanger the entire colony. An SOS from Colony 7, another nest of survivors that Briggs’ community have an agreement with, sends the leader, Sam (Zeger) and a young lad to see what is going on and to see if they can help.

Briggs leaves Kai (Charlotte Sullivan) in charge, much to Mason’s annoyance, and the three men go to the other colony to help. Once there they discover two things. A message from yet another colony saying that they managed to get the weather adapter to work and thaw out the permafrost and an insane group of cannibals who have killed everyone, bar one survivor, and are still carving the meat up when Briggs and company arrive.

The rest of the film is pretty much a race to first escape the cannibals and then to defeat them. The film does shift gear from its beginning premise, changing from a science fiction only film to one that includes quite a lot of fighting and action. The character interaction is still quite good and no-one plays an arse as good as Bill Paxton. Like his other roles, the man does have a sort of mini-redemption but it is too late to save many of his fellow colonists.

In movies like these, the “big” names, like Fishburne and Paxton, usually check out fairly early in the proceedings. The Colony allows Fishburne to live at least halfway through the film and Paxton’s character makes it to the last reel. Pretty impressive stuff and it was nice to see Lawrence used more than in other science fiction films; for example Predators, where the movie could have benefitted from seeing more of his insane survivor.

Zegers does a good job as the man saved by Briggs when he was a boy stranded in the ice land alone who then rises to the occasion to help save the day. Sullivan as Kai does a good job as the pistol packing girlfriend of Sam but she does not get a lot of screen time. Paxton is, as usual, excellent as the executioner who wants to kill off anyone at the first sign of a sniffle.

Dru Viergever (Survival of the Dead, Goldirocks) does a good job as the “feral leader” who rules the cannibals and leads the attack on the new colony. Granted most of his dialogue consisted of screaming and howling although when asked by Sam what he wants, the cannibal leader manages to roar, “More!”

Certainly not a bad film and it does benefit from Fishburne and Paxton being in the cast but this is not earth shatteringly different from other post apocalyptic movies out there. A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars and worth watching, even though we know that the surrounding scenery is all CG. Streaming on US Netflix at the moment.

Wrong Turn (2003): The Right Stuff

Cover of "Wrong Turn"

With Eliza Dushku being a hot property (Buffy, Angel, Tru Calling) off television and a cast of well known, if not star calibre yet, actors that included the ever lust worthy Desmond Harrington ( I’ve known full-grown women who go weak at the knees from just a mention of his name) Wrong Turn was a sure-fire money-maker. If not in the cinemas (where it did more than alright), it would reap great home sales benefits for the makers.

It did.

In fact Wrong Turn did well enough that it has spawned four sequels the last of which, Wrong Turn 5 is due to be released later this year. I’m not going to talk about the sequels or prequels. I have no interest in any of them, unless of course Dushku or Harrington show up which is very doubtful.

Directed by Rob Schmidt, Wrong Turn was his second feature-length film. Armed with a more than adequate cast and a straightforward story plus prosthetic makeup effects by the legendary Stan Winston Studio, Schmidt came up with a real winner of a horror film.

Using the age old plot of ‘strangers in a strange land’ aka ‘The Deliverance motif,’ the film places six young people in the middle of nowhere in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. Chris Flynn (Harrington) is a medical student running late for a job interview. He decides to take a shortcut around a four lane pile up and runs into Jessie Burlingame (Dushku) and crew who have had their tyres slashed by barbed wire placed in the middle of a back road.

As Chris literally runs into them or at least their vehicle and effectively renders both cars unusable, he strikes out with Jessie and newlyweds Carly and Scott (played by Emmanuelle Chriqui and Jeremy Sisto respectively) to find a phone to call for help. *On a side note here, Chriqui and Sisto fit so well together that major kudos go to the casting folks and for the actors themselves  for really selling their characters.*

They leave behind Evan (Kevin Zegers) and Francine (Lindy Booth) who have only a few moments of screen time and to live. In the short time they are on the screen they paint a brilliant picture of two self-centered, fun-loving Bohemians who have somehow found one another. Booth also has the funniest line with her, “Come on boy, don’t be a sissy. Take off them trousers.” which signals the beginning of fun and games with Evan. Off screen of course.

Oh, it’s trouser time again.

The first few frames of the film have already shown us that the woods are a scary place in West Virginia and that the local inbred population are a little hard on folks who cross their path. So when the killing starts  we are not surprised. The genius of this film is that the casting works so well and the actors sell their characters well enough that we actually care when they start to die.

We are rooting for them to get out alive and we feel badly when another one is taken by the grotesques of inbred hillbillies who treat the youngsters as prey. As the group is slowly whittled down (almost literally) it begins to look very unlikely that anyone will make it out alive.

The real power of the film is the group of actors who play the victims searching for an escape from the nightmare they’ve found themselves in. The script and the actors all work to get us, the audience, behind them. The whole thing is also helped by the grotesque inbred creatures that are hunting them. We never really get to see too much of them. Even the ‘lingering’ shots of the sleeping monsters are no more than a second or two in length.

No, I don’t want any damn candy!

The FX are top-notch. Speaking of FX, Wrong Turn is the first film to use CGI to brilliant effect in the area of pupils. When one of the group is killed quite graphically, CG was used to show the pupils dilating. According to the ‘making of’ featurette on the DVD, this film was the first to use CGI in this way.

The film delivers an entertaining time with the right mix of terror and humour, a likeable cast and suitable boogeymen to jump at and enough gore to remind you that you are indeed watching a horror film.

It is a ‘must see’ for Dushku and Harrington fans and I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of making a horror film. Wrong Turn show how it should be done with more than two-dimensional characters as the victims and damned scary villains. It moves at a great pace and the humour is well placed.

My final verdict is that it’s one that you should watch with all the lights off…

I spy with my little eye…