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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Isolation (2005)

Genetic experimentation has been a trusty staple in the book of horror damn near since its advent.  Encompassing the fear of the unknown with the fear of science and man's ever-willingness to mess around with Mother Nature, the topic always sparks debate and controversy ripe for dramatic license.  Not to mention that it affords the opportunity to portray more strange things to go bump in the night for our enjoyment.  Isolation takes the well-worn premise to pasture and fertilizes a truly scary scenario involving bovine gene manipulation gone horribly wrong.

We are first introduced to Dan, who is a struggling rancher on an inherited bog farm.  To subsidize his dwindling profits he rents an adjacent structure to a scientist named John, who is making progress in new fertilization techniques.  Rounding out the slight cast is Dan's ex-girlfriend Orla, a veterinarian who still assists in the care of the animals; and a mysterious couple squatting illegally on the land who may be possible fugitives from the law.

During the difficult birthing of a calf, Farmer Dan is forced to kill both parent and offspring much to his shocked dismay.  An inspection of the bodies reveals anomalies present in their anatomy that presumably lent to the unfortunate incident.  This becomes the least of Dan's worries however, as both humans and cattle swiftly become victims to a monstrous mutation faster than you can say "where's the beef?".  Can this deadly abomination be contained and eradicated before it seeks hosts beyond its secluded origin?  Watch the suspenseful barnstorm that follows for the answer.

And that is the meat of Isolation in a nutshell.  It's very reminiscent of films like Alien and The Thing, yet the somewhat derivative plot is greatly enhanced by excellent atmosphere, strong performances and some real hair-raising sequences.  Those with weak stomachs will likely find all the convincing carnage hard to digest, most especially the various livestock mutilations depicted.  Director Billy O'Brien wisely refuses to reveal too much of his Bovineal (sic) beast, instead opting for slight glimpses that accumulate to disturbing effect.  The pacing is excellent and leaves little room for any interest withdrawal.  Additionally, the film's dark foreboding ambiance adds to the restrained yet jarring imagery, making for an enjoyably upsetting experience.

Isolation offers a solid script, fine acting, admirable FX, an unusual setting, and some polished photography all cloaked by a wonderful score.  I dare say we have here a nearly perfect creature feature.  It keeps you engrossed until the end, no small feat considering we've all seen these types of fanciful forays before.  Another fine example of how ol' Mama N. can be a real bitch when you step on her toes, or in this particular instance, hooves.  Recommended by yours truly and The Food and Dairy Council.

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