I sat down on Saturday night to watch this movie. I was tired, it was late, and about 50 minutes in I realized I could not handle psychotic inside-out fetal cows.
However, once I had another eight hours of sleep under my belt, I felt safe to continue on in my predatory bovine journey.
In 2007, after screening it at Fantastic Fest in 2006 (where it won three awards), FilmFour, Lions Gate Films (always a winner in my book), and the Irish Film Board released Isolation straight to DVD.
Yes, I did say “psychotic inside-out fetal cows” and “won three awards” in direct filmic association with one another. And these weren’t dinky little awards either (i.e. best inside-out cow dental work or best attempt at mooing like the offspring of a regular-side-out cow and a velociraptor– though had those been awards, Isolation definitely would have won them).
Does it star anyone that the general geekster (don’t hit me for making up that word just now) would recognize? Probably not. We have a main cast of five and a bare handful of extras.
In the five, the most notable to American audiences would be Essie David as Orla (medic Maggie in Matrix 2 and 3… or is that “Matrices 2 and 3“?), Marcel Iures as John (one of the pirate captains in the third Pirates o’ the Carribean movie, Slavo in Layer Cake, and Russian Operative Alexander Golitsyn in Mission: Impossible) and John Lynch as Dan (he was in three episodes of Red Dwarf– yeah, that’s all I’ve got– there’s a big gap between UK-nian and American entertainment as in Americans generally don’t watch UK-nian entertainment).
We start off with some great opening credits harkening back to campy horror movies where a normal picture will suddenly go all contrasty and funkily colored before showing a person’s name, and it’s set to super goddamn dramatic music that already has caused you to grab the closest pillow in case something crawls out of the screen (SPOILER ALERT: inside-out fetal cows do not crawl out of the screen).
We just need Lucy Lawless to start singing and we’ve got a new Xena episode.
Eventually, the color/contrast issue that you did not adjust your TV for stops and the story begins.
We need to note ahead of time that this movie doesn’t believe in character-driven waste. For the first two-thirds of the movie, we’re seeing nearly as many atmosphere-driven shots as we are seeing shots of people. And when there are people doing various activities (like, say, loading up some skull-punching gun in order to take down a mad, mutant-calf birthing cow that has launched itself over a fence, four hooves a’flailing (that’s like seven swans a’swimming, since it’s the holidays and I gotta keep things relevant and stuff), angling angry bovine teeth for the woman who recently was shoulder-deep in her cow vag), those activities get jumpily edited, breaking a ten or fifteen second sequence into three or four seconds.
Which makes the whole thing seem kinda maniac and documentary-ish.
You know, if you were making a documentary on what happens when your farm is overrun by crazed inside-out fetal cows.
Back to the story! Once the opening credits end, we watch the vet (Orla) slowly make her way into the farm via filthy-carmobile. Once she arrives and gets into the barn (where we meet farm owner Dan), we get to see her arm become closely acquainted with a very pregnant cow.
Puppetry of the Cow Uterus
Once she’s looking like her whole body has been sucked into the cow’s uterus, she suddenly shrieks and yanks her now-bleeding arm out. The fetus has bitten her.
Suddenly cut to(!) Dan knocking on the door of a squat RV on the edge of his property. The door swings open to reveal very skittish campers Jaime and Mary. Dan lets them know they need to get off his lawn, damn kids (inaccurate summary, but the sentiment is slightly there).
Back at the ranch, er… farm, a truck labeled “Bovine Genetics Technology” pulls up and John, an older scientist, gets out. He hunts down Orla and has her re-insert her bitten appendage into the bovine nether-bits with an ultrasound tool. They determine that the experimental calf is fine and leave.
Later that night, distressed moos wake Dan. He groggily gets out of bed and heads out to the barn, where he finds his pregnant cow, now with bloody flanks(!). The calf is making her bleed internally… and there’s some seepage. He determines that he can save them both by yanking the calf out.
Dan finds, however, that he can’t get the calf out on his own, so he trudges down to the camper and asks Jaime for help.
Technically, this is potential leather and rope, so someone’s happy.
In this sequence, you learn more about calf-birthing than you ever thought you would need/want to know, complete with the finishing helicopter cow manuever. It’s just something you have to watch to understand.
Once it’s free of the womb, the calf bites off part of his finger. Blood (and a dental inspection) ensues. Orla shows up and it is revealed that the calf has wicked fangs. And not normal fangs, but gnarled, not-right fangs. So they get a brain-stabbing gun-thing (Yes, that’s the technical term– I know these things.) and try to put the mutant-calf down.
Please refer back up to the parenthetical remark on the four hooves a’flailing.
Eventually both the mommy cow and the baby cow get brained. Then the baby cow gets carted off for dissection, and we learn that the baby cow was pregnant with inside-out baby cows that look a bit like spiky doughnuts. Disgusted, Orla explains that John’s company was trying to engineer a faster growing, more fertile cow, then calls John to tell him that they need to shut the program down and drives off.
Aforementioned spiky doughnut in its uncurled form.
Of course, once she’s heading down the road we see one of the inside-out fetal doughnut cows twitch and squirm off the table.
Really, you need to think of this as the scary bovine version of Tremors.
Mutant hyper-reproducing tadpole inside-out cow fetuses go on carnivorous bovine rampage, infecting humans and cows alike, causing them to reproduce their own inside-out mutant cows.
As silly as that sounds, I only laughed once during this movie– during the helicopter cow birthing sequence. I also shut the movie off once because I could not deal with exhaustion and a scary ultrasound sequence at the same time. Too much angry-fetal-cows-with-teeth imagery, but flipbook style like whoa.
This image makes no goddamn sense.
Was this movie scary? It definitely had moments of “holy crap”ness. Not so much the leap-out-and-scare-you type as the intensity-building, nothing is sacred, this is edited kinda like a documentary and you KNOW that somewhere in Ireland this very thing is happening (but it probably involves inside-out carnivorous potatoes).
The acting was solid, the setting was great, everything felt very genuine. The dirt, the cold, the weather, the total isolation of the experience (though I do not believe “Isolation” was the best choice of name for this movie). The accents were, for me, hard to understand at times. A bit too rough and jumbled. But the fear was certainly there.
I definitely suggest firing up ye old Netflix on Demand and giving this weird little movie a whirl when you feel like something slightly different from your average monster-feature. Birdemic, this is not.