Isolation Movie Review
Written by Rosie Fletcher
DVD released by Lionsgate Films
Written and directed by Billy O’Brien
2005, Region 2 (PAL), 91 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on September 17th, 2007
John Lynch as Daniel
Essie Davis as Orla
Ruth Negga as Mary
Sean Harris as Jamie
Marcel Iures as John
On a run-down cattle farm in Ireland, lonely introvert Daniel is keeping someone else’s secret. In one of his cattle sheds something is growing — Orla, the local vet knows about it, John, the biogenetics researcher is in charge of it, and Jamie and Mary, young couple on the run, are about to be seriously effected by it. With obvious influences from Alien and The Thing, Isolation is subtle, but shocking, body-horror — well written, creepy and well worth a look.
Lynch is really excellent as the quiet and understated Daniel, and he suffers for his art — he has his hand in a cow’s bum and wades neck deep through slurry before the film is over. And it’s his performance, as well as the subtle script and strong supporting cast, that really establishes the idea of isolation rather than excessive landscape shots (although the title “Isolation” has more than one meaning in this film). Daniel took over the farm from his father, he lives alone, he’s self-sufficient, he’s used to being isolated — his established loneliness shows us what kind of place this is. The whole cast is strong, without exception and they have a good script to work with. Writer/director Billy O’Brien manages to avoid awkward exposition instead using subtle detail to carry forward a slowly unfolding story.
It’s surely an impressive thing to make such a gentle, docile creature as a newborn calf extremely menacing, but O’Brien achieves this impressively. Indeed, the scenes before the audience know exactly what they’re dealing with are some of the scariest and most uncomfortable to watch (especially the truly awful scenes where the mother cow tries to defend her threatened calf). When we do finally get a look at the “monster” it’s a little disappointing, as is so often the case with this sort of thing, but this doesn’t especially detract from the enjoyment — the tension is built around the implications of what it represents rather than what it looks like.
The film doesn’t go into too much detail about the specifics of the experiment or much of the science it’s based on, but this isn’t really a problem and nor is it terribly surprising — if you can buy the strong central concept then the specifics of how and why aren’t terribly important. The ending is rather predictable, but it’s nonetheless satisfying.
Isolation feels very current, to UK audiences at least, in this age of genetic engineering, BSE and CJD, foot and mouth and avian flu. There’s a strong message in the film about what happens when you mess with nature — the “monster” is a hideous perversion of the natural order — the revolting culmination of what could come from our desire to make farming cheaper and faster with higher yields. Not a terribly original or sophisticated message, perhaps, but it taps nicely into one element of the paranoia of our times.
Isolation is surely the final word in cow horror. It does for cows what The Dark did for sheep and Hannibal did for pigs. I’m now looking forward to the inevitable donkey horror that must be in the pipeline. Despite being, perhaps, a little derivative this is an intelligent, well rounded and enjoyable film with some great performances, decent scares and nice surprises. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have no hesitation in recommending it.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
This is a screener so picture and sound will not be rated. However, I understand this is to be presented in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Extras on the screener disc were two short, but interesting, documentaries — the first is interviews and insights from the cast & crew, the second is a production design and effects featurette. The theatrical trailer was also included.