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Putting a fresh spin on mad cow disease and giving Al Gore more to think about with the term eco-horror, Billy OBriens quintessentially Irish mutant horror ick-fest in Isolation might just be part of the forefront of modern low-budget throwbacks to B-horror of the 70s and 80s but retaining the taut, eerie atmospheric qualities of earlier horror films. Unlike the last Irish horror splatter-fest that was distributed internationally in Boy Eats Girl, this film does not have a facetious tone of paying homage to classic horror. When its effective, it is highly disconcerting despite the fleeting inclination to inadvertently swing by with comedic overtones in its flimsy premise.
In a quiet, secluded farm in the foggy Irish moors, Dan Reilly (John Lynch) sells one of his last remaining cows to a stony geneticist (Marcel Iures) and his veterinary ex-girlfriend (Essie Davis) for pregnancy experiments commissioned by a large biotech firm. Even as Dan grows suspicious, he still has to contend with his property becoming a trailer park as a couple with a shady past squats on his farm. When he enlists the squatters help in delivering the calf from the experimented upon cow, they find that the newborn isnt exactly cut out for grazing.
It captures the titular sense of isolation with aplomb and does not deviate from the strong authentic environments that only serve to sharply tune the claustrophobic dread creeping over its characters. The sense of immediacy is heightened with a confident hand in the shaky-cam that hones in on the bleak mood perfectly. The performances, thankfully compliment its laudable production values and animatronics that were primarily financed by scrimping and saving aside from the government film grant. But its strongest suit is that despite the brief runtime and quick headway into the main story, OBrien gives a strong shake at defining his characters and the tenuous relationships they build whilst running from killer parasitic cattle.
Lions Gate Films usually has a keen eye for picking out small acclaimed independent films that usually churn out a decent profit in larger theatrical runs and this does not seem to be the exception. Billy OBriens feature debut is ostensibly a sci-fi horror with enough tropes of previous films where renegade experiments in the name of science go wrong. Not taking glee in its violence, it has something to say when the grim outlook of playing god becomes more than any scientist can handle. OBriens influence from creature-features like Alien and other mad-scientist films, together with his talent in manifesting tension with imaginative camera angles make Isolation a surprise treat for genre addicts.