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colonyCanadians who were still digging themselves out of winter’s bounty in late April might feel a bit better after seeing “The Colony,” a new sci fi thriller starring Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Zegers and Bill Paxton. “The truth is,” we’re told by way of narration, “one day it started to snow and it never stopped.”

The movie takes place in a modern ice age. Survivors found refuge from the ice and snow far underground in places like Colony 7, a community run with an iron fist by former military man Briggs (Fishburne). The colony is divided along red / blue state lines—the liberal approach to governing from Briggs, versus a more practical reality espoused by Mason (Paxton), a gun touting enforcer whose catchphrase is, “We need to be tougher!”

The underground ecosystem is fragile at best. “It’s not the cold we need to worry about, it’s each other,” says Sam (Zegers).

An uneasy truce between Briggs and Mason holds until a routine call to Colony 5 goes unanswered. Briggs takes a two-man team—Sam and Graydon (Atticus Dean Mitchell)—to truck across the blustery tundra to investigate. While they’re gone things at Colony 7 go all “Lord of the Flies,” but it’s an even worse situation at Colony 5.

“The Colony” makes good use of the situation to build atmosphere and tension by using the icy outside and the claustrophobic interiors (it was shot at the decommissioned North American Aerospace Defense Command base in North Bay, Ontario) to good advantage. Shadows and creepy sounds stand-in for elaborate special effects, but when the going gets bloody old school nasty action effects—like a bisected bad guy skull—are effective and cringe inducing.

On the downside “The Colony” has many of the standard plot devices used in sci fi thrillers— who doesn’t see the sacrifice of the metaphorical red shirt coming?—and the ultimate survivors just happen to be the good-looking ones who escape to Adam and Eve it up elsewhere. But it makes up for its deficiencies with some excellently feral cannibals and an ending that while hopeful, is still bleaker and cooler than we might expect if this was a big Hollywood movie.

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