The Isle – Review
When their boat sinks, 3 men make it to an Isle they'll wish they had never found.
ell, here we are with yet another drama heavy “horror” movie. You could say it’s actually not a horror at all. After reviewing Relic, another horror adjacent, a couple of days ago. We now have The Isle which is, also, not a horror at all.
Despite both movies being light on the horror front. There is a notable difference between The Isle and Relic. Relic was actually an okay movie whereas The Isle is complete dreck. This old fashioned ghost story follows three sailors. Washed up on an uncharted island after their ship ran aground. The three seek to find a way back to the mainland. What they uncover turns out to be darker than they could have imagined.
The Isle Ending Explained
I am sure a few of you have arrived at this review searching for The Isle Ending Explained. This is a bit of a messy movie with a muddled narrative. Well, you are in luck. We at Knockout Horror have an Ending Explained section just for that. I am adding to it all the time and recently covered The Isle. Click the link to check out our The Isle Ending Explained article.
The Isle is a fantasy horror movie set on a Scottish island. It is based, at least loosely, around the Greek tale of Sirens. For those of you who don’t know. Sirens are creature that use their beautiful song, and alluring appearance, to lure sailors. They bewitch them, guiding them into rocks. When the sailors follow the sirens, they drag them to the ocean floor.
The Isle follows three merchant sailors, Oliver (Alex Hassell), Cailean (Fisayo Akinade) and Jim. Their ship has been wrecked a few miles off of land. They jump into a lifeboat and manage to sail away from the ship. Unsure of where they are headed. The three row aimlessly towards a small Scottish island unaware of whether anyone else has survived. The sailors are greeted (crept up on) by Fingal Macleod. An incredibly stealthy gentleman that apparently inhabits the island.
Fingal takes the men back to his home and offers food and drink. The men tell Fingal that there may be other survivors. They request that he light a fire on the shore. Fingal reassures the men that he will do this. He then informs them that he knows a place that they can stay.
Fingal leads the men to the house of Douglas and Lanthe (Tori Butler-Hart) Innis. On the way the group have a bizarre encounter with a young woman. The woman turns out to be Fingal’s daughter Korrigan Macleod (Alix Wilton Regan). She grabs one of the men believing it is someone she knows. She shouts at the men to leave and that they shouldn’t be here.
The men arrive at Douglas and Lanthe’s house. The, initially, reluctant Douglas agrees to take them in when offered some salvaged rum. It soon becomes apparent that something is amiss with the island. The residents are hiding something. Finding a boat to get back to the mainland is not going to be an easy task. Something on the island does not want anyone to leave. Oliver and his sailors are no exception.
Fake Reviews Ahoy
Before I start with the review, there is something I want to bring attention to. This movie is a fantastic example of filmmakers exploiting user review systems. There are so many reviews for this movie on IMDB that use buzz words and repeat the same phrases. It is almost to a comical degree.
My partner and I, after watching, will sometimes flick through some user reviews. To be honest, we only usually do it if we didn’t enjoy a movie. I never do this to paraphrase or steal ideas from other reviewers. I am just looking for the general consensus of said movie. It’s nice to gauge just how much I might piss off the general viewing public when I write my review.
With the above in mind, we come to the review page for The Isle. If we scroll past all the sub five out of ten reviews we start to see some glowing reviews. Oh look, a nine out of ten.. Oh, and another nine out of ten? Eight out of ten, well I suppose that is still pretty fantastic.. Wait, ten out of ten! This movie must be incredible. Well, that is what I would have been thinking. Had I not just sat through this absolute anal prolapse of a movie.
Repeated references to how movies are “just not made like this anymore”. Pointing out how different The Isle is from other movies. Complaining that nobody said it was a horror movie anyway so fuck you. Insulting the intelligence of users who did not enjoy the movie. Fans of The Isle are a wild bunch. It’s almost as if they have a personal investment in the movie.. In fact, it’s almost as if they worked on the movie.
The most egregious examples, however, are from someone claiming to be a professional reviewer. This person claims to be paid to recognise good movies so screw you if you disagree. That is literally what she said. A couple of accounts share similar names. These accounts have only reviewed movies directed by The Isle director Matthew Butler-Hart. Apparently many of the reviewers have a bit of a vendetta against millennials as well. There are a number of references to them. Repeated moaning about how this movie is not for them because they are too young to appreciate it. Honestly, I am not making this up. The reviews are more fun than the movie itself. They are certainly more interesting.
Unfortunately this is just an example of people with a vested interest manipulating reviews. People with personal investments in a product have a good reason to try to sway opinion. These are likely reviews from friends or people involved with promoting the movie. It is very common with low budget movies. They tend to not get the exposure of larger movies. Manufactured reviews are a cheap and easy way of promoting them.
Luckily the angry viewing public watches these movies. They realise they are awful and head off to IMDB to let everyone know. Users are also quick to recognise when reviewers have an agenda. Normally, they will call them out for it. The horror community is, after all, the best movie community around. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure some people enjoyed The Isle. Fans likely reviewed this movie to reflect their enjoyment of it. I honestly believe those people are in the minority, though. It’s a deceptive practice and fairly frustrating.
Once Again, Not Horror
Well, this is, once again, a drama, fantasy movie masquerading as a horror. The Isle’s antagonist is basically a manifestation of revenge. It sort of pushes itself as an old fashioned folk tale. Focusing on Sirens and how they lure sailors to their death. It strays from that pretty early on. It does walk somewhere alongside this path but attempts to be something more interesting. Alas, in the end, The Isle leaves you wishing they had just kept things simple. I get it, they maybe wanted to convey a message and that’s fine. In my opinion, I just think they were out of their depth. I really enjoy thoughtful movies but not when the execution is this poor.
Some of the aforementioned reviews go on to point out that “nobody said this was a horror”. They pretty much insult people for thinking it is. Well, that’s on the creators and the publishing team. I really don’t agree with this sentiment, either.
I would actually say that The Isle was thoroughly intended to be a horror movie. The execution is just so poor that it doesn’t come across at all. There are elements in The Isle that are reminiscent of horror. We have a spooky island with a ghostly antagonist that is seeking vengeance and yada yada. It is clear that this was intended to be a horror movie. It’s just not very good at actually being a horror movie. It’s not scary, lacks atmosphere, and the story is just not that interesting.
Wow, some of the acting in The Isle is among the worst I have seen in a long, long time. Dicken Tyrrell as Fingal and Conleth Hill as Douglas, in particular, have some absolutely hilarious moments of terrible acting. They had me laughing way too hard for a horror movie. Dicken Tyrrell has literally one facial expression that he uses for every scenario in the movie. I say terrible acting but some of it has to be down to the sub-par directing of Matthew Butler-Hart. I am sure he framed and orchestrated the scenes. It has to be pointed out thatt is the director’s job to remind actors to emote. It is a director’s job to instruct actors on their motivations. If their performance isn’t up to scratch, reshoot the scene.
Potential spoiler here I suppose but this scene bears mention. Fingal and Douglas stand over the mutilated body of a young woman. She has clearly been sexually assaulted and murdered by a member of their community. The way they discuss what has happened and what they should do about it is hilarious. They stand over this poor girl’s corpse mulling the ramifications of telling the villagers. All the while never changing facial expression even once. It is positively side splitting. They could be talking about someone taking a shit in the middle of the village bowling green for how little they care. Apparently nobody shouted “CUT” and reminded the actors that they have just found the body of an innocent young woman brutally murdered. Perhaps they should attempt to emote a little.
Not everyone is terrible, though. Alex Hassell as Oliver is actually really good. Fisayo Akinade, as Cailean Ferris, is likeable and easy to sympathise with. Tori Butler-Hart has at least three different facial expressions to rotate through. That’s actually pretty impressive by The Isle’s standards. Everyone else is somewhere in-between awful and high school drama production.
A Few Good Points
The cinematography here is actually pretty damn good. The location is gorgeous and a lot of the shots legitimately do the scenery justice. For a low budget movie, The Isle actually looks quite nice. The period clothes and styles are very believable and well done. It does a good job of reflecting the time period it is supposed to be representing. Make up isn’t overused, either, so everyone, women included, looks suitably weathered. They actually look as if they have lived their lives on a Scottish island. It’s nice to not see a Hollywood sheen covering everything.
I did feel pretty drawn in to the plot for the first 20 minutes or so. Acting from the sailors was fairly good. The mystery of the island was set up in a way that was at least somewhat compelling. I genuinely wanted to know what was causing the folk to act so strange. As the movie went on, however, that interest completely waned. It felt as though the director was treating the audience as a proverbial cat and kept pulling the string away. It got to the point where I just didn’t care anymore. When finally offered that piece of string I had found something more interesting to entertain me. In this case it was the hilariously bad acting and attempts at scares.
And More Bad
The Isle absolutely lacks any kind of suspense beyond the first 20 minutes. The 96 minute runtime is an absolute chore to get through. I love a slow burn story. Check out my review of fellow UK horror movie Saint Maud for evidence of that. This is beyond that, however. The characters are so bland and the events of the movie so uninteresting. It is incredibly difficult to become invested in what is happening.
Scenarios repeat themselves and characters act in stupid ways. There are extended scenes of pure boredom inducing nothingness. Lanthe spends far too much time having histrionic fits. These have no real consequence until the very end of the movie. By then you are unlikely to care. On top of all of that we are subjected to the weirdest sex scene ever. Writhing body movements from Lanthe and Korrigan come across as comical rather than haunting.
It goes without saying that there are no scares. I get it, the creators are claiming this isn’t a horror but the DNA of a horror movie is in there. I mean, the tagline is “Their song will haunt you”. That sounds a lot like the tagline for a horror movie. I really think their claim that they didn’t intend this as a horror is something of a retcon. The movie doesn’t do horror very well and they realise that now. The ghostly apparition is pretty comical in the scenes it is present. The ending is also woefully disappointing. The special effects are pretty awful leading to some unintentional laughs in parts. All in all, there is just so much wrong with The Isle. It is a very difficult recommend.
Is it a Knockout?
The Isle is most definitely not a knockout. It's more of an accidental fart that slips out while swinging a right hook. Absolutely terrible pacing that makes the 96 minute runtime a nightmare to sit through, comically bad acting, a complete lack of scares, awful effects, and a plot that is simply uninteresting are the only things that will haunt you about The Isle. I love slow burn movies but The Isle promises something in its first 20 minutes that it never even comes close to delivering on.
The Isle is pretty to look at and the location is gorgeous. Not all of the actors are terrible and the first 20 minutes are fairly interesting. Outside of these positives, however, it's just not a very good movie. Uninteresting characters combine with a boring story and a complete lack of suspense to make The Isle incredibly difficult to recommend. Keep in mind, however, I am just some dude with a negative opinion of this movie. You may love it and think I am a complete idiot so maybe you should check it out for yourself.