B-Movie Inspirations: The Colony (2013)

Browsing NetFlix again, I found a new sleeper sci-fi/post-apocalypse movie called The Colony.  Starring some of my favorites like Bill Paxton and Laurence Fishburne, this movie had a great look, a great background but a fairly predictable and straightforward plot.  It has some good concepts and execution wasn’t bad but for such an epic setting, it was a tad disappointing in story.  But there is some inspiration in it.

The Colony takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a second ice age has enveloped the world.  According to wikipedia – “By 2045, humans have built weather machines to control the warming climate due to climate change and global warming. The machines break down when one day it begins to snow and doesn’t stop. ”  That is not quite the vibe I got though and this is where my first inspiration came from.  What if these weather machines were more the cause than the solution?  Humanity’s own hubris thinking they could solve “global climate change” made it worse.  This is the perspective I approached it while watching it and is a common theme in many of my RPG campaigns.

The surviving humans live in colonies of underground compounds, where ever they can find them.  Each are referenced simply as colonies, Colony 5 and 7 being the primary bunkers we see in the movie.  Each deal with the issues you would expect in a frozen post apocalypse – food, water and disease.  The colonies stay in contact via radio and Colony 7 in particular has the luxury of satellite connections which is commonly used to search for survivors as well as thaw.

The movie spends a good amount of time introducing the characters and establishing the social environment that the survivors are in.  As you can imagine, it is pretty harsh.  Anyone that is sick is quarantined until they get better. If they don’t get better, they are banished into the cold.  Colony 7 is “ruled” by two former soldiers – one somewhat more nurturing and cerebral than the other.  Paxton plays the harsh and hard-nosed leader (Mason) while Fishburne plays the opposite type of leader (Briggs).   Briggs is officially in charge and the only thing that keeps Mason at bay.  Of course, you get the feeling that things are going to change soon and the beast that Mason is will be released.

That moment comes when they lose contact with Colony 5.  For some odd reason, Briggs volunteers himself and two others to go check it out.  Apparently it is within reasonable walking distance.  Personally, I would have said “Oh well” and stayed home.  But I hate snow.  The trek takes two days.  Passing over an old bridge, they use a grounded helicopter as shelter at the halfway point.  The tension in the movie begins to build from this point because my mind was going all over the place imagining what could be waiting for them?  Aliens?  Mutants?  Alien Mutants?  The possibilities were endless.

Going into the movie not knowing the nature of it, as I said above, I imagined all kinds of possibilities.  Unfortunately, they never fulfilled by wildest hopes.  They kept it more conventional and grounded, as well as gritty and somewhat gorey.  Simply put, Colony 5 was attacked by cannibals – savage, teeth sharpening, cold-adapted humans that have gone insane from eating human flesh.  Colony 5 is their new slaughter house as they feast on raw flesh.

Briggs and his team barely escape, losing the youngest in their group as they try.  The savage cannibals give chase until the two survivors make a stand at the bridge, where Briggs sacrifices himself by using dynamite to collapse the bridge just as the group of savages are trying to cross.  Sam makes his way back to his own colony feeling like the cannibals were defeated.  He of course arrives to find Mason ruling over the colony like a tyrant and things don’t look good.  However, all hell breaks lose when they realize that somehow, some cannibals survived, including the vicious leader who was at the center of the blast on the bridge (It could happen!).  The assault on Colony 7 begins and chaos ensues.

From an RPG game master perspective, this movie is more about atmosphere than story.  The story is not original, but not bad.  This would be a great movie to watch, however, if you are creating an ice age apocalypse setting.  It gives you ideas on the various things that could happen, things a survivor would have to deal with and the general feel of the movie was inspiring in itself.

The plot is nothing special, as I said, but the savage cannibals could be something else.  I was rather uninspired by them because I find the old trope of “no monster is any worse than the ones inside ourselves.”  But a GM could relate the bad guy back to the mysterious ice age.  Maybe it was alien terraforming and they finally get to meet the aliens.  Maybe the aliens did not expect survivors.    All kinds of possibilities there.

Overall I like the movie more because of production value than story.  They successfully created a ice age apocalypse on a fairly small budget.  I recommend it if you like that kind of movie.