Director: Billy O'Brien

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Isolation The Irish horror movie Isolation (2005) comes on dvd with optional English subtitles for whoever finds the Irish brogue confusing to the ear, though I didn't think anyone's accent was at all difficult.

The premise sounds so much like a cheesy horror cheapy, but in development, the acting, cinematography, score, everything about it has the look & feel of a well-budgetted, serious thriller. And it's nice to see tawdry science-amuck themes treated as worthy of good storytelling.

A struggling dairyman has permitted research on his cattle, with the presumed goal of developing a strain of cattle that matures & reproduces rapidly.

The experiment has gone seriously awry & the first cow to give birth has a calf with a fanged maw & ferocious temper. Furthermore, the calf is born pregnant, with legless parasitic mutant calf-fetuses capable of seeking out new hosts.

The virus that had been used to alter the genetic code has itself mutated & can infect cows or people in the reproducton process. Everyone who gets bit is infected. So it's not just a creature feature, but a doomsday scenario as well.

IsolationThe film develops slowly, but is never shy of suspense. The assisted crisis-birth for that first cow made for dramatic stuff even for the realistic veterinarian content of the event. Screwing up the slaughterhouse-style killing of the calf was pretty much shown as it no doubt really happens from time to time, & was at least as appalling as any gore effect with human beings.

So the farm is shown to be already a world of gore even before the unnaturally horrific erupts. Eventually it develops into a fairly standard creature feature with the primary calf-fetus especially yucky.

There are gore gags, a few good moments for the mad scientist, & the final battle against the creatures with no happy ending possible. I'm not sure I got why there was a crawl-tunnel underneath the barn, but it made for some pretty harrowing hunter & hunted moments underground.

The tale develops some real characters & in the main it is one of the better films of its kind, from a director who seems apt to continue to do some great things within the horror film genre.

The Tale of the Rat that Wrote On the American dvd release of Isolation there is an additional short film among the extras, by the same director, filmed splendidly in black & white, looking very Dickensian. It's even better than the very well done feature.

The Tale of the Rat that Wrote (1999) is about ratcatcher J. P. Haddock (Jeremy Swift) who has founded a horrific rat laboratory where he tortures, torments, & experiments upon his tragic captives.

Our sympathies are with the rats from the start, charmingly designed puppets whose every sigh & groan evokes terror & pain. Their anxious eyes peer out from cages with endless worry over what the evil Haddock has next in store to evoke further miseries.

The Tale of the Rat that WroteHaddock catches one of the rats attempting to write a note. It's not quite legible, but to test the rat's knowledge of writing, he writes his own instruction that agonizing things be done to the rat then it's head cut off own. He shows the rat the notice, & she immediately expresses terror.

Later she makes good her escape & flees the laboratory to experience further horrors in the outside world. Eventually she returns to the lab where she lurks out of sight, plotting & planning, until her ability to write is perfected & she is able to effect a coup, liberating her fellow rats & caging Mr. Haddock.

Though satiric, it's nevertheless a seriously arresting little story, filmed with surprising Kafkaesque elegance.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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