I heard about this film at one of my favorite new websites Head Injury Theater, where Jared von Hindman reviews a lot of cheesy horror films, most of which I’ve seen or at least known of. But this one was different, I didn’t know a single thing about it, and I always appreciate that in a film. All I needed was to read the first couple of sentences claiming this to be a well made horror flick, and I stuck it in my Netflix queue. I stopped there because I like going into films without someone else’s opinion stuck in my head (don’t let that stop you reading), so all I knew was that it was an Irish film about killer-mutant cows.
What I wasn’t expecting was a really well made little thriller; that happens to propose the preposterous idea of killer cows. The film starts with a woman with her arm half-way up a cow’s hoo-ha, checking on the progress of the calf growing inside. Suddenly the vet pulls her hand out, it’s bleeding, and she claims that the thing bit her. The farmer standing-by says that’s a ridiculous notion, she must have stuck it on something else. What, though?
A few days pass and the cow starts to go into labor. The farmer and another guy, who’s been illegally camping out on his property, go to the aid of the cow, because the little bugger doesn’t want to come out. Once they violently yank the thing into the world, the farmer goes to clean out the calf’s mouth; bad idea. Soon he’s skulking away with nine and a half fingers. Besides the nasty bite, the farmer knows there is something wrong with this calf, it’s just not normal. When he goes to put it out of its misery, the mother cow goes nuts, trying to jump over the fence between them, breaking her neck in the process. Soon, the vet shows up and she offs the little biter, but more so, she wants to know the truth.
She begins an autopsy on the mother and starts to reveal the full truth to the farmer and the audience. Apparently, they’ve been doing some genetic modification, and obviously it has gone wrong. Inside the mother cow, she finds a couple more things that appear to be cow fetuses, only horribly mutated, looking more like some sort of alien-insect. When one of them jumps to life, she smashes them to death; save for one that has wiggled its way off the table. And that’s when the cow shit truly hits the fan.
While things have seemingly returned to normalcy, a new breed of life is secretly growing to deadly proportions. What follows is sort of like Alien on the farm; the thing continues to grow, feeding on the cows, hiding in the dark-dank barns, striking out at the few humans that are unfortunately stuck there, because the doctor who originally altered the cow has determined that it’s highly contagious. The dread of the situation is built nicely and surprisingly realistically; the terror is treated with full seriousness and is told in a way that you can buy into the ridiculousness of a mutated cow killing everyone.
I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed Isolation, but even more surprised by how the film was built to be truly scary, without a hint of irony; which is a real rarity these days. The film is very nicely acted, good performances all around, with John Lynch from the wonderful film The Secret of Roan Inish playing the farmer. The film features some great dark photography that adds to the mood. Writer/director Billy O'Brien has crafted a horror film for this new age of genetic modification, that all at once is entertaining, terrifying and a damnation against tampering with animal DNA.