February 20, 2006
For his debut feature, Isolation, filmmaker Billy O'Brien channels the spirit of Ridley Scott's Alien and David Cronenberg-styled organic metamorphosis to craft an old-fashioned, by-the-book science fiction thriller. On an isolated, rundown farm on the Irish countryside, a farmer named Dan (John Lynch) agrees to participate on a research project designed to increase bovine fertility and accelerate beef production on the recommendation of the town veterinarian, long-time friend and former lover, Orla (Essie Davis). But soon, despite extensive monitoring that seem to indicate a successful graft, the two begin to sense that the experiment has not gone completely according to plan, a nagging suspicion that is further reinforced when during a routine checkup, Orla is seemingly bitten by the unborn calf. Unable to contact Orla on the evening of the impending birth and unable to manage the task single-handedly, John summons a pair of runaway lovers squatting on the farm for help, a fateful connection that would unwittingly bind them to the mutated creature and the experimental farm. Although O'Brien demonstrates a keen eye for sustaining tension through shot composition and landscape to create a competent and atmospheric horror film, the film inevitably suffers from a derivative plot that lends itself to a certain degree of predictability and formulaic resolution.