You weren’t the only one freaked out by Aliens and The Thing, obviously. Both sci-fi favourites have inspired legions of creepy tributes in the past few decades. And this weekend, Seattle-born director Jeff Renfroe delivers his own take on the genre, with the post-apocalyptic thriller The Colony.
“These are the movies I grew up on,” he says. “(The Colony) was a chance for me to make something that’s been with me for many years.”
Renfroe’s film, which stars Laurence Fishburne and Aliens alumnus Bill Paxton, centres on a group of scrappy humans who are forced to live underground after a brutal ice age engulfs the earth. While the movie includes a requisite amount of scares – guess what happens when some of our survivors head out to investigate a distress call from a neighbouring colony? – it also flirts with messages about climate change, consumption and sustainability.
“I love when a genre movie can work with some themes underneath it,” he says, and then gives shout-outs to more contemporary sci-fi films like 28 Days Later and District 9.
Renfroe, who edited the stellar music documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, also directed the films One Point Zero and Civic Duty, and has worked on videos for a number of Canadian musicians – including David Usher, Junkhouse and The Headstones. He’s also credited as a co-writer on The Colony.
To get the right feel for his latest sci-fi flick, Renfroe shot scenes 60 storeys underground, in a decommissioned NORAD storage facility in North Bay, Ont. The nuclear bunker opened in 1963, and housed 700 workers during the peak of the cold war.
“When we found that place, I was like a kid in a candy store, man,” says Renfroe. “It was like, okay, this is purpose-built for our movie, this survival bunker. It was really creepy being down there, and I could tell it was just dripping with atmosphere.”
The subterranean filming location killed any kind of mobile reception for the cast – no texting, no e-mail, no Facebook. Renfroe admits that his claustrophobia initially made him hesitant about travelling so far underground, but the vastness of the bunker surprised him.
“Once you’re in the facility down there, you kinda forget that you’re underground,” he says. “But you feel it. It’s a weird kind of pressure that you feel. And maybe it’s a lack of clean air or something, but yeah, it definitely affects you.”
Top photo: Jeff Renfroe on the set of The Colony with Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Zegers (courtesy of eOne).
Bottom photo: Jeff Renfroe at the world premiere of The Colony in Toronto in early April (taken by Sean Fitzgerald).