Written and Directed by Billy O’Brien, 2005
Isolation opens aptly with moody, mysterious circumstances surrounding the imminent delivery of a calf on a remote farm in Ireland. Orla, the sole vet tending to the pregnancy, is performing one of what will prove to be several armful uterus probings, when there is a crunching sound prompting an immediate arm removal that reveals a fresh, deep laceration on her hand.
A few oddities later and John, the owner of the farm/cow, is forced to induce delivery. I’ve not attended any calf births, but it certainly confirms the abnormality when John, with the help of a nearby pair of runaways, begins to wench the calf out by its ankles. Both calf and mother soon find themselves with body openings not intended by nature and the 5 humans on the farm soon cross paths with what caused the holes.
Billy O’Brien does a swell enough job setting up the lurking creature, but his direction starts to waffle in place as the movie goes through its clearly Alien inspired paces. Points for a rejuvenated setting. Not only is the farm bizarre enough, but it’s built on a bog, so it allows for a patented wade through deep water. Points for a good cast, which features Sean Harris (the man in the banner atop every page of this very grain of the internet) and an empathetic Marcel Iures. The problem is that the early moments of the film that spark a "What the hell is going on?" wonderment slump into a "okay, what the fuck IS going on?" chain of reactions.
It isn’t that the plot is hard to follow, its the direction that is. The creature evolves, sure, but it evolves into a creature that is all to skeletal. That description is a literal description of the creature’s assortment of bones look, but it’s also to say that the creature has zero meat to it. After you experience it, you appreciate it, but there’s no lasting substance to enjoy. Plus, how is a lump of illogical bones going to zip between crawlspaces and rafters with the dexterity of Spider-Man.
The cinematography is good, especially by Indie UK standards. The sound design is appropriately grating. It’s just the repetitious, predictable plot that wears its welcome out. The rare location/construction of the farm allows for some slight twists on the scare setups, but the beats remain the same.
In the end, sadly, Isolation settles itself as just another attempt of capturing the magic of the Alien series. It isn’t as direct of a clone as others have been (or it could have been) and is exciting in a handful of unexpected places, but it is never able to completely maintain the intrigue of its first third.