Do you find cows scary?
Or, put another way, how do you think you could ever make a cow seem scary? Red eyes? Vampire teeth? Bolts in its neck, ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ style?
None of it would really worry you much would it?
And maybe that’s why this flick was always destined to fail…
The film opens on a farm which has fallen into hard times. The owner, Dan (the familiar looking John Lynch) has turned to allowing experiments to be conducted on his stock by a mad scientist in exchange for some much needed money. And things just don’t seem to be working out too well.
Two gypsy lovers, Orla and Jamie are passing through the area and become involved in the delivery of a calf. As a result, they are welcomed to stay for a couple of days on the farm which generally has an air of disease and bad karma.
They appear to be on the run from the law, and as the farmer is obviously doing something a bit risky with this experimentation stuff, they start to get on quite nicely.
However, the village vet goes missing and an unseen creature starts biting people (Dan and Jamie). And when the injured become nauseous, you start to fear that things are going to get messy Cabin Fever style, or turn into zombies! Or at least 28 days later infected zombie-like people!
Thankfully (sort of) no one lives long enough for this to happen.
Seemingly inspired by the relatively recent foot-and-mouth outbreaks, there are a few scenes of cattle being detroyed, causing the farmer much pain.
But some of the lingering shots of the group gazing at an up-turned burning cow seem almost comical, and you have little pity for the farmer, who was the one that allowed a crazy scientist to play with his cattle in the first place!
The film does have the odd good point.
Cinematically, it’s pretty impressive.
There are some imaginative shots used, strange camera angles, good shot composition… All making me think that the persons involved in these aspects of the film were of good stock (unlike the cows).
But for me, it was kind of like having a really nicely decorated cake, which once cut is either empty, or is just filled with cows innards, rather than a nice sweet sponge or fruitcake. Below the surface, the film is very poor.
The main faults being:
- It’s another ‘infection’ film based in a country which is very close to Britain, so is always going to have to be better than 28 days later to be taken seriously.
- The acting is so uninspiring, and in an attempt at ‘realism’ the characters lack emotion and personality.
- At times the plot seems poorly planned, and certain scenes smack of improvisation, purely down to how stupid they are and how unlikely it would be that they would ever really happen.
For instance, in one scene the farmer, the travellers and the mad scientist track down the creature than has been nibbling humans and exploding cows from the inside-out.
It’s in an area of the farm which is, for some unexplained reason, filled 5.5 feet deep with what seems to be a cow pooh and swamp-water cocktail.
“How are we going to catch it?” one asks the others…
My thoughts at the time were:
Don’t catch it, just keep an eye on the area and call the police/army. Or if you feel really brave, while they’re on their way over, find a big net and fish it out.
What does the farmer actually do? He drives a tractor straight into the water-pooh (as opposed to a boat). Surprisingly, the water-pooh floods the engine… Who’d have thought that would happen eh?
Whenever a normally sensible character does such a stupid thing, you have to wonder if the whole scene was just plopped in to compenstate for a general lack of suspense.
Also, without giving away too much, the ‘monster’ (if you could really call it that) does end up being a walking calf carcass. Not really the sort of thing that’s going to give you nightmares. Although it could perhaps put you off your Sunday roasts for a while.
I was quite surprised to find that the film had won awards for stuff (other than cinematography which it could well have deserved). I was also left cringing when I read that it was billed as ‘one of the best Irish horror films’, thinking that the people making that judgement could only have been comparing it to the Leprechaun movies. In fact, I think that Leprechaun was probably better anyway! And that really is saying something…
Either way, it does highlight that Irish film has a lot of work to do in this area. And it’s a part of the industry in which they could really prosper with so much Celtic myth and legend to be tapped for the sake of making good scary movies.
Unless you’re an animal rights activist, looking for inspiration for your next argument against animal testing, there is little point in watching this film.
You’d probably be better off watching the tounge-in-cheek ‘Black Sheep’, if livestock-related horror is what you’re after.
Additional film information: Isolation (2005)