If Tobe Hooper was going to do a movie in the vein of ‘Alien’, I think this might have been one of his possible outcomes.
This 2005 Irish gem has been a favorite of mine ever since I first saw it. Creature features are my favorite type of Horror film and this is one of the better ones. It struck close to home due to the moomoos (cows for all you average laymen) involved, I just hate to see such “gentle” creatures get hurt. I felt a bit disturbed at times watching it due to that which was a nice twist considering most movies of late have been a little weak in that aspect and I’m one who craves the uncomfortable in my horror.
In ‘Isolation’, Dan Reilly (John Lynch) runs a dilapidated cattle farm that has definitely seen better days. With equipment that has been unused for who knows how long and falling revenues, he gives in and says yes to hosting laboratory tests on his cattle involving a genetic experiment that would allow cattle to produce offspring that were more fertile and able to grow faster. At first only one cattle is involved and when it produces a deformed calf, it and its calf are put down. An autopsy on the calf, performed by Dan’s ex-girlfriend Orla (Essie Davis), reveals that something has gone terribly wrong in the experiment.
The experiment, setup by John (Marcel Iures) from Bovine Genetics Technology, produced a calf that was born pregnant. These feti, six in total, all appear to be some kind of mutated calf creature with unnatural teeth. You quickly find out that only five made it to cold storage giving you a heads up on what to expect the rest of the film.
Dan and the others are joined by Jamie (Sean Harris) and Mary (Ruth Negga), a pair of runaway lovers who have been using Dan’s property to hide out on. Previously asked to leave the property by morning, their assistance to Dan with the birth of the deformed calf convinces Dan to let them stay. Later in the film, you can only imagine how they wished they would had left.
The cinematography is very reminiscent of what I have come to expect from someone like Hopper, reminding me of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ in more than a dozen scenes. (If I hadn’t known this movie was directed by Billy O’Brien, I’d have thought otherwise.) With excellent lighting as well as soundtrack you are quickly drawn into the story from start to finish. Gore is minimal, it is more autopsy than splatterfest, and it doesn’t detract from the suspense.
With such a small cast you realize that deaths will be on short order, but they are spaced apart well enough that the suspense never really disperses from one scene to the next. Interesting enough, they do not all come from the mutated calf creature which sets you on edge when you realize you may not know the extents to which the film will go.
For having so few feature films under his belt, I was quite impressed with director Billy O’Brien. I’m very interested in seeing his other works as well as the other works of Marcel and Ruth who both gave great performances. Even the ending doesn’t truly let you off the hook, leaving you with the usual feeling of grim foretelling.
As you might expect, nothing here is truly original. However what they have managed to pull off with an isolated farmyard, a handful of ordinary characters, and a bunch of stars from The Far Side (the moomoos) is genuinely amazing and definitely worth a gander.