Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on rockin’ flatscreen.
Go digging in the horror movie genre, and you’re going to find a creature feature that covers just about anything you can think of. There are horror movies about giant frogs (Frogs) killer worms (Squirm), and enormous rabbits (Night of the Lepus). Even barnyard animals aren’t spared, with Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, Blood Freak, (about a mutant killer turkey), and Black Sheep. Well, now you can add cows to the mix with Isolation, a film where once again science runs amok and dabbles in things it should not.
That sounds ridiculous, of course, but Isolation is actually a much smarter movie than just “killer cow.” Were it a horror comedy, it could probably pull that off, but this movie is played completely straight, which means we’re going to have to find a way to make this a serious thing. It doesn’t hurt that one of the featured players in this is Ruth Negga, who’s pretty great just as a general rule.
It won’t come as a shock that Isolation takes place on a farm. In this case, that farm is in Ireland. The farm is owned by Dan (John Lynch), who is struggling mightily. That struggle has caused him to agree to take payment for a bio-genetics firm to do some work on his flock of cows. The goal is to produce a breed of cows that matures more quickly and can reproduce more quickly as well. While Dan deals with his pregnant cows, he is assisted by local vet Orla (Essie Davis) and monitored by the scientist in question, John (Marcel Iures). Rounding out the people in the area are Jamie and Mary (Sean Harris and Ruth Negga). They are travelling through, on the run from Mary’s family. It seems that they object to Mary taking up with a “traveller,” one of Irelands nomadic population.
Eventually, a calf needs to be born, and both Orla and Dan are bitten by it. The calf is horribly mutated, including having disturbingly sharp teeth. They are forced to put it down immediately, and then have to do the same to its mother. An autopsy shows that not only was the calf terribly deformed, it was also born pregnant, with six even more deformed fetuses within it. During the autopsy, Dan and Orla step outside and miss the fact that one of the fetuses is evidently alive, and it slides off the table.
And with that basic idea, you have the premise for the film and a good idea of what is going to happen through the rest of it. We’ve got a nasty little mutated creature that is going to need to eat and it will have plenty of places it can hide on the farm as well as both cows and humans that it can attack, eat, and most importantly, infect.
Isolation is a surprisingly gory film, and it’s a very specific type of gore. While there are moments of blood spatter and the creature itself is pretty horrifying (most of the mutated fetuses, including our monster, had their skeletons on the outside), the gore that we are going to get here is primarily of the more medical/autopsy variety. For me, that’s the type of blood and guts that I have the most issue with, so in that respect, Isolation was a harder film for me than normal.
This is a surprisingly good film, though, for what it is. It’s a relatively low-budget affair, with a budget that came in just under 3 million pounds, which was probably in the $5 million range for when it was made. It didn’t make anything at the box, but this is the sort of movie that doesn’t, and tends to make its money on the back end, from people like me watching it on streaming services.
It helps that the cast here is a solid one from top to bottom. It also genuinely helps that it plays the premise straight despite that premise really seeming dumb on the surface. It also is the only other film I can think of that makes good use of the captive bolt pistol, most famously used a couple of years later in No Country for Old Men.
Isolation is a lot better than its small budget would suggest. It’s also a great deal better than its rather ridiculous premise. Aside from having a cow as its main villain, it has some genuine scares and some really good moments in it. It doesn’t tread any new ground. Honestly there’s not a great deal here that you haven’t seen in films like Deep Blue Sea that preceded it or Splice that followed, but it does what it does pretty well.
Why to watch Isolation: Far better than its premise.
Why not to watch: Sadly, you’ve seen this ending before multiple times.