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!
Glad you enjoyed the movie as much as I did, and I’m even more glad to be able to contribute something to this great site that has given me so much pleasure!
By the way, Unk, in that article at Fearnet that you link to, the movie “The Signal” is given a positive shout-out. If you haven’t seen that one, it’s definitely worth checking out as well. It’s kind of oddly funny/creepy/weird, but I recommended it to some friends and they liked it, too, so folks might want to give it a go.
So glad I took your advise Lee! This was the perfect movie to catch late at night and it seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a horror movie take itself seriously. Might have to own this one.
I have yet to see “The Signal” but if both you and Drew recommend it I’m going to have to check it out soon.
I only joined Netflix recently and haven’t tried the streaming. Do you do it to your computer?
I just get the disks mailed – seen all three of George Burns’ Oh God! movies and last night finally got to see Tod Browning’s Freaks. But I noticed a lot of movies I’d like to see seem to only be offered as streaming and since I don’t have a WII I haven’t tried it.
I watch them through my playstation 3 usually or on my laptop. I’ve actually learned to enjoy watching stuff on the computer. The secret is you just need decent speakers or headphones.
I have not seen the Oh God movies in years I gotta rewatch those but thanks to Final Destination I’m kind of scared of John Denver.
I felt compelled to comment on this for a few reasons. Firstly, because I like you, have passed Isolation by on a number of occasions, (I’m from Ireland, so I have somewhat of a gag reflex when it comes to Irish genre movies) and also because of your appeal to let people know if you’ve seen something that’s truly impressed you. So having gone against my better judgment I recently watched Brendan Muldowney’s Savage. And WOW! is really all I can say. This film has single handedly boosted my faith in Irish cinema. And although not exactly horror be prepared for an absolute juggernaut of emotion and tension if you do give it a watch. So with my spirits high and a new belief that my countrymen actually can do horror, I’m gonna give Isolation a shot.
Unk – Oh get them! “Oh God! You Devil” isn’t as bad as many claim. Not as good as the first two – the original being the best. I feel that movie has a better grasp of God then any religious leader. Especially when He talks about us having free will and having to choose to make things better on our own.
I’ve never seen FD as it came out when I was totally burned out on the whole teenager horror things. Besides whatever Elvira would show, I also grew up on a lot of Alfred Hitchcock movies so I keep looking for things that really scare me like the shower scene in Psycho.
I have yet to find the ultimate horror movie. Something that magically combines all the elements of movies, books, and characters I love, like Psycho, The Phantom Of The Opera, Dracula, White Zombie, and now Freaks – with a splash of Evil Dead.
That “Savage” movie really does look very intense!
Thanks for letting us know about that one! The trailer alone is disturbing..
I can not pass up the opportunity to see George Burns as Satan…
Check out this TV spot…
I wanted to see that so badly when it came out. Mom and dad wouldn’t let me though because Siskle & Ebert gave it a bad review. Since then I’ve disliked critics.