Well, here we are with yet another drama heavy “horror” movie that’s actually not a horror at all. After reviewing Relic a couple of days ago and pointing out how it is, basically, not a horror at all; we now have The Isle which is, also, not a horror at all.
There is a notable difference, however, between The Isle and Relic: Relic was actually an okay movie whereas The Isle is complete dreck.
The Isle is a fantasy horror movie set on a Scottish island and 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 into the rocks around their island, ship wrecking them.
The Isle follows three merchant sailors, Oliver (Alex Hassell), Cailean (Fisayo Akinade) and Jim, whose ship has been wrecked a few miles off of land. They jump into a lifeboat and manage to sail away from the ship and 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 and request that he light a fire on the shore. Fingal reassures the men that he will do this and 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 that turns out to be Fingal’s daughter Korrigan Macleod (Alix Wilton Regan). She grabs one of the men believing it is someone she knows and shouts at the men to leave and that they shouldn’t be here.
When 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 or, in particular, its residents and 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 and these sailors are no exception.
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.
I’ll make it clear that my partner and I, after watching, will sometimes flick through some user reviews of the movie we just watched. I’ll 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, assuming anyone actually ever finds this site.
With the above in mind, on the review page of The Isle, If we scroll past all the sub five out of ten reviews we start to see some absolutely 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 and 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 paid to recognise good movies so screw you if you disagree (that is literally what she said) and a couple of accounts that share similar names and 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 there are a number of references to them and 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 how easy access to user reviews allow people with personal investments in a product 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 so manufactured reviews can take a more prominent place.
Luckily the angry viewing public watches these movies, realises they are awful and heads off to IMDB to let everyone know. Users are also quick to recognise when reviewers have an agenda and 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 and reviewed this movie to reflect that enjoyment but I believe they are in the minority. At least we only wasted a couple of hours watching the movie on a streaming service and haven’t spent money on a DVD or anything.
Well, surprise surprise 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 about Sirens and how they lure sailors to their death but 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 and stuck with the Siren premise. I get it, they maybe wanted to convey a message and that’s fine, 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” and pretty much insult people for thinking it is. Well, that’s on the creators and the publishing team. I actually 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 that had me laughing way too hard for a horror movie. Dicken Tyrrell has literally one facial expression that he uses for every single scenario in the movie. I say terrible acting but some of it has to be down to the awful directing of Matthew Butler-Hart because I am sure he framed and orchestrated the scenes.
Potential spoiler here I suppose but I have to point this out. There is one scene where Fingal and Douglas stand over the mutilated body of a young woman who 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 while never changing facial expression 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 raped and murdered so they should probably attempt to emote a little.
Not everyone is terrible; Alex Hassell as Oliver is actually really good, Fisayo Akinade as Cailean Ferris is likeable and easy to sympathise with and Tori Butler-Hart has at least three different facial expressions to rotate through which is actually pretty impressive by The Isle standards. Everyone else is somewhere in-between awful and high school drama production.
The cinematography here is actually pretty damn good. The location is gorgeous and a lot of the shots legitimately do the location 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 and 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 and 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 island folk to act so strange. As the movie went on, however, 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 and 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.
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 that the requirements for becoming invested in a story are just not there.
Scenarios repeat themselves, characters act in stupid ways, there are extended scenes of pure boredom inducing nothingness, and Lanthe spends far too much time having histrionic fits with no real consequence until the very end of the movie. On top of all of that we are subjected to the weirdest sex scene ever complete with hilarious body movements from Lanthe and Korrigan.
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 because the movie doesn’t do horror very well. The ghostly apparition is pretty comical in the scenes it is present in and the ending is hilariously stupid. 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.
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.
I bet you really feel like watching The Isle after reading this review, right? Well, if you do then you can do just that at the links below.
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