I've been digging for shells in the sands of Netflix Streaming for a while now and I must have passed this title by countless times. I would accuse myself of judging a book by its cover but how can I judge something when it doesn't even register on my radar? The little poster avatar for ISOLATION may as well have been a generic can of corn in a supermarket aisle as far as I was concerned. Furthermore, the word "isolation" does not instill horror in my heart; it makes me think of a nice window seat and a telephone happily off the hook. Thank God for readers like Lee W., there I was about to call it a night recently when I got an email informing me that ISOLATION regardless of poor poster art, bland title or crazy cow-centric synopsis was something I might enjoy. So I stayed up and watched it and Lee W. was absolutely right.
Coincidentally, the next day I read THIS POST over at Fearnet by DREW DAYWALT lamenting the recent scourge of heart in the wrong zip code horror. It got me thinking; what was it about ISOLATION that set it apart from the "why bother?" horror movies skulking about sucking up space? Without revealing too many details, here are a few of the elements that made it work for me:
There's nothing new under the sun going on here, but that doesn't mean that a horror film can't have its own unique voice. I may have seen some elements of ISOLATION before but I have not seen them handled quite the same way. There is a big difference between being influenced by something and direct thievery, but as a viewer it's the end results I'm most interested in. I say feel free to "borrow" if you use the borrowed goods as a springboard to someplace new. If you're borrowing simply because you have nothing to say then don't say anything at all. Parts of ISOLATION feel lifted from ALIEN or THE THING but they are starting points rather than dead ends and really, can you think of two better films to tip your slimy hat to?
Popular theory is that the more you like a character, the more you care about what happens to them but I'm not sure I need to like a character at all. What I do need is an understanding of their motivations and why they do the things they do. I don't have to want to invite them out to lunch in order to feel something for them but if you want to really involve me in their experiences, they need to come across as more than just meat props. I may not "like" all the characters in ISOLATION (mostly I do, especially its two leads JOHN LYNCH and RUTH NEGGA) but they all made sense to me and I didn't think that any of them existed as mere chess pieces or monster fodder.
A desolate farm in Ireland may not seem like the go-to location for a horror movie but in ISOLATION, it is milked (no pun intended) for all that it is worth. If you want to send the viewer to the place your film inhabits take the time to show them around. Location may seem incidental but I defy anyone to come up with a classic successful horror film that does not fully take advantage of its whereabouts. Think of HALLOWEEN, by all rights suburbia should be the dullest locale on Earth but in JOHN CARPENTER's hands, the streets of Haddonfield become a shadowy dungeon like labyrinth. ISOLATION makes a point of setting the stage first and the horror that follows is all the better for it.
Film is a medium that can be manipulated a zillion ways in order to elicit an emotional response. Why do so many filmmakers seem content simply turning the camera on and blankly recording the action? Editing, lighting and sound should all be equally considered. ISOLATION has several well-orchestrated scenes where the director makes clear choices in an effort to be effective. I'm not saying it always works but simply witnessing the intention sends me half way to where I need to go. In other words, there is significance to what you are shown in this movie and how you are shown it and I never felt that I was being subjected to random filler.
I'm not calling ISOLATION the second coming but it deserves some recognition for at least trying to be a good horror movie rather than simply a pandering waste of space vanity badge for its creator. Whether it works or not for you, ISOLATION at least respects you enough to attempt to deliver actual fear instead of trying to impress you with empty cred-casting and a bushel of D-cups. I found myself completely submerged in the action and wishing I felt that way more often with other horror films.
So yes, allow me to offer you the same courtesy that Lee W. offered me by recommending ISOLATION as a highly worthwhile watch that will probably surprise you. I've made an effort not to give too much away or to praise it to a degree that it can't live up to. If you end up enjoying it as much as myself and Lee W. did then for Pete's sake tell as many people as you can about it. There's a part of me that just gets mad that a movie like this can get lost in the shuffle while most horror sites are reporting the most minuscule tidbits of non information about already over hyped films on a daily basis. If you end up NOT digging ISOLATION that's fine too, just promise me that when and if you do see something that impresses you that you make sure others know! I can't stand that I almost missed this movie! Lee W., I owe ya' one!