Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Isolation (2005)

Not many people know this, but this gothic beauty was raised as a rootin’, tootin’ cowgirl on an isolated ranch up on the Northern California coast. I’ve herded, branded, vaccinated and assisted in the birthing of numerous calves and lambs. And yes, I unfortunately wore Wranglers and, at times, a cowboy hat. Don’t hate!

Even with my previous exposure to ranching and farm animals, I was still awestruck and grossed-out by some scenes in Isolation, a taut horror movie from Ireland. There were some scenes dealing with birthing cows, vet checks and cow fetuses that made me recoil in horror…

A hard-on-his-luck farmer has allowed a genetic scientist to experiment with fertility treatments on his cows in exchange for cold hard cash. The scientist hopes to genetically enhance the cows, making them more fertile at a younger age, therefore making farmers more profit. Unfortunately, things go incredibly awry and horribly disfigured calf fetuses, which are also developing at an accelerated cellular level, begin looking for new hosts. Can the farmer, along with his vet, the evil scientist and two wayward twentysomethings on the run, stop the genetic mutants before they spread their genetic abnormalities to a larger population?

Isolation is a film that slipped under my radar back when it was released in 2005. This is surprising since it is an amazingly tense and well-done movie that blew me away. Though the premise, which is pretty much killer cow fetuses on the loose, sounds weak and silly, the film comes off as anything but slapdash. The film has a very serious tone throughout and writer/director Billy O’Brien ensures it doesn’t veer into funny farm territory.

From the beginning of the film we are thrust into the action, as one of the farmer’s cow is about to give birth…but when the vet sticks her hand up into the cow to check on the calf, it bites her. When it’s finally born, there’s something just not right about the dewy-eyed calf. From there, things get awfully messy fast – some of the gore is hard to watch, especially if you are an animal lover. A special gun is featured, one that doesn’t contain bullets but instead shoots out a steel rod at a very high speed, usually into the brain.

Numerous cows and humans are dispatched with this weapon, leaving violent sprays of blood in their wake. Besides that piece of nasty, there are numerous guts spilled, whether through the vet’s autopsies of the cows or through the lil’ monsters’ search for news hosts. The mutant monsters are also quite a sight, all crunchy exoskeleton and sharp teeth.

Besides the impressive and cringe-worthy gore, Isolation boasts a very tense atmosphere, which it manages to maintain throughout its entire running time. The location of the isolated farm ensures that help isn’t coming anytime fast and ratchets up the tension until it’s almost unbearable. It also helps that the action feels very real, like it is something that could very well happen.

Though we are thrust immediately into the action, the film still takes time to develop its characters enough that we know who they are and what their relationships are to each other. Writer/director Billy O’Brien does a fantastic job at showing us who the characters are instead of just blatantly telling us. As for the actors, all involved did a stunning job. Performances by Essie Davies, John Lynch, Ruth Negga, and Sean Harris are the ones that really sell the film, not the special FX (though they are superb!).

My only complaint about the film was that I wish the full-grown mutant monster was shown a little more. We get glimpses here and there until the finale, but I just wished we could have seen MORE of it.

Isolation hasn’t been called “Alien with cows” for nothing! From its gutwrenching gore to suspenseful storyline to great performances across the board, Isolation is not to be missed.

Buy it on Amazon!

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