Monday, June 29, 2020

Home On the Mutant Range

You watch enough veterinarian shows on Animal Planet and it's hard not to think you too can delivery healthy calves or wrap them in a blanket and rub them warm until they come back to life. Made way back in 2006, Billy O'Brien's Splinter-meets-Dr. Pol horror film reminds me that I actually have none of those skills.

Quick Plot: Dan is struggling to make ends meet on his isolated family farm. Trying to stave off the bank, he's made a dangerous deal with the devil in the from of a shady biological research company that's been experimenting on her heard. 

On a dank, muddy night (something I assume is a redudant description for Irish farmlands), he summons his vet Orla (The Babadook's Essie Davis) to help him with one of his pregnant cows. The fetus somehow manages to bite Orla, who senses something amiss and calls in her higher up for backup. 

Meanwhile, a handsome young before-they-were stars couple on the run, have parked their camper on Dan's property. Played by Sean Harris and Goddess Ruth Negga, Jamie and Mary find their ways into Dan's good graces quickly, which is handy when you're otherwise alone in your battle against evil corporate science and mutant cow parasites. 

Isolation is a small, contained film fitting of its title. Writer/director O'Brien seems well aware that a little goes a long way, especially with a presumed limited budget. The action stays on the farm and in darkly lit barns, with tight shots of the impressive practical effects. Like so many genre films of the last 20 years, I did spend a good amount of energy squinting through darkness, but it's somewhat excusable considering the setting.

Isolation kept making me think of Splinter, a similarly old school horror that centered itself on a handful of characters battling some pretty gnarly special effects. I wish Isolation had a little more of Splinter's screenplay, as the characters themselves never get enough time to truly come alive. 

High Points
We don't get to know too much about our small group of characters, but that's where casting and performance comes in hand. The camera has never loved anyone as much as it does Ruth Negga, and without much specifics, John Lynch manages to make Dan a sadly sympathetic lead

Low Points
Look, I get that there's no reason to waste electricity when money is tight, but how hard can it be to turn an extra light on when you're filming in the dark?

Lessons Learned
Maybe it's just the real-life quarantine talking, but doesn't it just seem OBVIOUS that one should avoid having sex when there's the slightest chance that you might be harboring a mysterious parasite

Isolation didn't shake my world, but it's a solid, very well-made little thriller that will satisfy your itch for some classic horror and crunchy practical effects. You can find it on Amazon Prime. 


  1. Yeah, this one is pretty decent as I recall. It was quite a while ago that I watched it, maybe time to revisit.

    1. Solid stuff. Not overly special like Splinter, but good, solid filmmaking to be sure.

  2. Saw this one more than 10 years ago and there are 2 things I remember about it (spoilers?):
    1. Even though she was unknown to me back then I was really bummed that Essie Davis exits the movie so early (I can't remember if she died or just left). I mean, you can't have too much Essie Davis in your movie. Ruth Negga is a nice replacement though.
    2. The movie is super dark most of the time. It's one thing to play with light and darkness for atmosphere/suspense but if I don't get scared because I can't SEE what's going on is another thing.
    All in all it's a solid (effects and acting mostly) but uneven little horror-thriller. Actually the same way I feel about Splinter but for different reasons.

    1. Agree with 1 and 2!!! I feel like literal dark movies was all the rage in the early 2000s, and I wonder how much of that was budgetary. I bet if I combed through reviews of those movies, most of my low points would be "I CAN'T SEE ANYTHING!"