The yearlong abandonment of my Netflix queue has resulted in yet another surprise disc in the mail. I don’t remember putting Isolation in the queue, but I know for a fact I did so absolutely blindly; I’d never heard of the movie before or since, but surely it ended up on the list due to the phrases “bovine fertility” and “genetic study” in the film’s synopsis.
Dan is a broke-ass farmer who sold his livestock to the whims of a genetics company. He doesn’t know the nature of their experiments, really, but John, the scientist behind the operation, assures him it won’t cause his farm any trouble. Orla (Essie Davis), Dan’s veterinarian (and former lover, it would seem) is also in bed with the genetics corporation, and has reason to be suspicious the company’s experiments might not be as harmless as they’d like everyone to think. On top of keeping the true nature of the genetic experimentation secret, the company has made Dan promise to keep his farm isolated from strangers. The secrecy has yet to pay off, however: neither Orla nor Dan have been paid for their part in the experiments.
When one of Dan’s cows is about to give birth, Dan tries his damndest to aid the animal in the process. Unfortunately, the calf is far too large for it to come out naturally, but because Dan’s way behind on his phone bills, he can’t call Orla and must solicit the help of some guy named Jamie who is squatting on his property in a trailer hiding from his lover’s brothers, or something, to help him jerk the calf out of the cow. Needless to say, the Calf is fucked up in all sorts of ways,
and when Orla finally makes it to the farm (women’s intuition, I guess?) she discovers the calf was actually pregnant with six babies! Seems the geneticist’s interest in farm efficiency was taken just a little too far. Anyway, one of the calf’s calves not only bites the shit out of Dan and Orla, but also escapes. John believes it can cause a great illness and plans to quarantine the farm, and then you know, the search for freak baby calf thing is on.
Isolation isn’t a terrible movie, and it’s not a great movie. I guess that really just makes it unremarkable. I knew within the first fifteen minutes that it was going to be filled with a bunch of relationship drama that I didn’t care about, and it was, and that detracted a great deal from the film. Dealing with a large corporation’s big scientific secrets and inability or unwillingness to pay those involved sure sounded like a great opportunity for meaningful social commentary. Unfortunately it is totally squandered here, and really has little to say except the usual don’t-fuck-with-mother-nature-or-else-your-farm-will-be-destroyed-and-you-might-have-a-deformed-and-infected-baby. There’s just no complexity or surprise to it at all. Even the parts that are centered around relationship drama that could have been exploited to further our distaste for the corporation at hand here aren’t highlighted at all – like, what was the point of having the couple squatting on the farm? To prove that Dan is a nice
guy? To make that cop that shows up that one time look like a jerk? Maybe, but to what end? All these could be achieved through other means. Honestly, it really seems like nothing more than a dangling, pointless plot line. Same goes for Dan and Orla’s former relationship: okay, they used to screw, now what? Now nothing, it seems. Some pre-fucking sexual tension would have served us better.
On the upside, the acting is all right; no complaints there, though I wouldn’t nominate anyone for any awards or anything. By far the best parts of the movie are those where the practical special effects are featured. There’s definitely tons of gory opportunities, and it feels like any lofty ideas about damning the man were eschewed in favor of grossing out the audience. Which I guess is fine, but only because the effects are actually good. Still, I’d rather watch a movie with more to say and shittier effects than one with great effects and nothing to say. So, if mother nature gone bad is what you’re looking for, there are much better movies around than this one! I can think of two that we watched just recently that far outshine this one. First there’s Bats, which isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but is slightly more interesting and definitely far more entertaining. There’s also Kingdom of the Spiders, which is a super fun time that didn’t rely on special effects geniuses, to be sure. I’d definitely say give those a try over this one any day.