Monday, April 4, 2011

Isolation (2005)

How to describe Isolation? Imagine if Ridley Scott were all set to direct Alien--then the budget went south. So he re-sets the film on a small farm in the middle of Irish nowhere, and substitutes H. R. Giger's mad-love shape-shifter with, um, cows. Sort of.

The result is yet another British Isles horror surprise. From 28 Days Later (2002) to Dog Soldiers (2002), from Shaun of the Dead (2004) to The Descent (2006), from The Disappeared (2008) to The Reeds, (2009) (and sorry, but only The Disappeared is on Instant Play right now--although all these titles are available from Netflix), it seems the Brits are back, with a vengeance--and a monster or two, and some hauntings and flesh-eaters, and ...

Isolation's director, Billy O'Brien, makes a picture you can hold in one hand--if you're crazy enough to open your palm. In some ways it's the real surprise in the bunch, if only because it's so simple--as was Alien, even John Carpenter's The Thing (which Isolation also resembles), if you look past their budgets--and with horror, sometimes simple is best. O'Brien gives us a few characters, a villain and a surprise or two, sets it on a farm where no help is forthcoming, then lets this nasty little contraption give you the willies, the creeps, the jumpin jives.

As long as you give in to its premise--gene modification (the post-millennial response to '50s radiation-mutation) gone terribly wrong--Isolation provides a good Dark Ride--dark as the inside of an old barn at midnight, sloppier than a mid-Autumn farmyard. It's a triumph of hand-made, animatronic ick that understands that horror's playground lies between the viewer's need to know and the desire to look away.

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