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Isolation (Widescreen)

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Fans of good old-fashioned creature features should be very pleased with writer/director Billy O'Brien's efforts in his feature debut, Isolation. O'Brien's mud-drenched tale, set on a remote Irish cattle farm, blends copious atmosphere, strong performances, a disturbing psychosexual subtext, and enough visceral ickiness to be genuinely disturbing without verging into sadism. Aside from the specificity of the setting, there's nothing especially original about the film. The scene where Dan (John Lynch) has to slosh his way to safety across a flooded field in which we all know something horrific lurks underfoot might evoke a dozen other horror films, particularly Alien, but it's presented with such simple sure-handedness that it can't help but generate the desired effect -- equal parts suspense and dread. There are a couple of minor plot holes, and while the inherent cheesiness of the premise might turn a few potential viewers off, it doesn't really detract from the film's effective terror. In a certain nostalgic sense, it even enhances its entertainment value, by distancing it from the gratuitous cruelty of other contemporary films that have effectively evoked classic 1970s horror, like The Devil's Rejects and Wolf Creek. But O'Brien plays it completely straight, for the most part, only verging on camp in a few brief, unfortunate moments involving John (Marcel Iures), the requisite "mad scientist," complete with vaguely Eastern European accent. In general, O'Brien takes his time building up to the big scares, letting us grow familiar with characters and the setting before unleashing mayhem. And even then, the director wisely limits how much we can see, leaving enough to the imagination to keep his creature frightening. Josh Ralske, All Movie Guide