Isolation (2006)

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 09/11/05 10:47:57

"Boo, Moo -- What's the difference?"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2005 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL: For his debut feature, Irish filmmaker Billy O'Brien shows up with a grim, gruesome, and gloriously gross horror flick about mutated cows and the poor saps stuck on an isolated farm with the blood-drenched bovines. But "Isolation" is better than just a cocksure gorefest; it's all but dripping with muddy, rusty atmosphere and boasts a generous parcel of jolts, shocks, and a general sense of desperate unease. Horror fans take note: This is one import you'll want to keep an eye out for.

Boasting only a handful of doomed characters, a bunch of poor cows, and a farm locale that's as unsettling as it is desolate and soaked with mud, Isolation is one true-blue shocker, and it's a flick that blows away any preconceived notion of "Wha? Mutated cows? How silly!" And I should know, because that's precisely what I was thinking before the lights went down.

Here we have a devoted farmer, a caring veteranarian, a devious scientist, and two young lovers on the run. They all bump into one another on one of Ireland's most out-of-the-way and entirely unpleasant cow farms. Seems that our resident cow-keeper has hit on some hard times, and in an effort to earn some kind of income, he allows a mad scientist to inject his bovine buddies with some sort of growth serum. The plan is to make the cows age quicker and therefore breed more speedily ... but something goes wrong and one poor calf is born already pregnant.

But pregnant with what?

That's all I'm spilling, plot-wise, but suffice to say that Isolation is a rock-solid chiller that's careful to include all the things that make a horror flick worthwhile: Imaginative kills, frequent goriness, a more than palpable sense of impenetrable dread, creepy creatures, and a grim setting that easily gets under your skin from the very first frame.

Fair warning, though: This is a horror movie that's not shy about getting down with the gristle, and you'll find just as many raunchy dispatches as you will sequences of admirable tension and all-encompassing grimness. Isolation takes no freaking prisoners, horror hounds, and the fact that perhaps 25% of the press screening audience got up and left before the end credits should be enough to whet your appetitie. (And believe me; they didn't leave because the movie stinks. They left because they're freakin' wimps!)

Isolation does not know the meaning of the phrase "comic relief," and I found it a refreshing change of pace to squirm through a proudly disturbing little horror nugget without being subjected to ironic self-mocking and/or pointlessly desperate "jokey" material. Mr. O'Brien wants to scare, spook, and unsettle you with this movie, and speaking as a 25-year veteran off all things horror-related, you can trust me when I say that Isolation is a grim and gruesome treat, and it's a title I'll proudly trumpet when asked "What's a good non-Hollywood horror flick that I haven't seen?"

"Isolation" could do more damage to McDonald's than "Super Size Me" ever did. You'll never look at a cow the same way again.

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