Daily Archives: February 5, 2020

Isolation (2005)

*. Alien set on a run-down Irish dairy farm. Talk about cold comfort. But well, why not?
*. I should maybe say here that I grew up on a dairy farm, not far removed from the way this one is drawn (a nicer house, a more primitive barn). So for me Isolation has an added resonance. I haven’t felt such a sense of personal familiarity watching a movie since Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.
*. The idea here is that a down-on-his-luck farmer (played by John Lynch) has allowed a research company to do some shady (and officially unauthorized) experiments on his herd. I must have missed it, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly it was that Bovine Genetics Technology was up to. I don’t see the point in simply making cows more fertile, as a dairy cow’s only real value is to give milk. The dairy industry doesn’t want, or need, more cows. They want more milk, which is not the same thing. In any event, the experiment has disastrous results and soon the farm has a monster on the loose.
*. Director Billy O’Brien is making one of those monster movies where the monster’s appearance is concealed by way of fast cutting, extreme closeups, and disco lighting. In fact he plays this game out all the way to the end. Even after the movie was over I had no clear idea of what the monster looked like. A giant shrimp? That’s the best I can do. Which means I can understand why O’Brien wanted to keep it hidden. One can also understand why so many critics thought the film failed to live up to its promise. You live by the tease, you die by the tease (or by the reveal).
*. The defining element of Isolation is muck. An evocative word, muck. Here it stands for the mud the farmyard is slick with (because it’s always drizzling rain in Ireland), the lagoon of slurry or liquid manure, the odd pools of filthy water in the barns, the trail of slime left by the monster, and the gouts of blood that go springing forth from its victims. It’s a movie more than half-submerged in muck. Right from the first scene we’re up to our elbows and over our gum boots in it.
*. This, and the welcome use of practical effects over a lot of CGI, gives Isolation a distinct and authentic texture, which helps conceal the fact that it’s a pretty standard monster movie. Points awarded, however, for having so many cows around.
*. Why is it that horror movies so often require an idiot plot? They’re best known for being used in slasher films, but even here the idiot-plot element is introduced. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why Dan (the farmer) thought it a good idea to drive his tractor into the shit pit. Of course, the tractor stalls out and he has to trudge back, knowing that there’s something in that foul bog with him. But he knew how deep the slurry was and must have known he couldn’t drive into it. What makes this worse is the fact that the scene was so unnecessary. The script could have found some other way to get us there.
*. Not a big movie, or one that stands out much from the field, but competently done and well paced. And while it’s not all that different from the usual monster fare, it’s different enough to be worth a look. At least for those of us, in Frost’s phrase, versed in country things and with a bit of muck still stuck on our boots.