Three dudes, one lifeboat…not as kinky as it sounds, as said dudes, Oliver (Alex Hassell), Cailean (Fisayo Akinade) and, Jimmy (Graham Butler) to be precise, are the survivors of a mysterious shipwreck that find themselves stranded on a fog enshrouded, ice cold, drab and dreary island in 1800’s era Scotland. They come to stay with Douglas Innis (Conleth Hill) and his daughter (Tori Butler-Hart), and soon learn that shipwrecks are a way of life around the island and have lead to the massive dip in the locales’ population. The trio soon find themselves balls deep in a supernatural tinged quandary as they learn just why the populace, such as it is, remains in such a haunted and doomed location.
Directed and Co-Written by Matthew Butler-Hart (along with his wife Tori Butler-Hart whom, if you have a shred of retention, will remember is one of the film’s actors as well) The Isle is a miasma ensconced, deliberately paced, slow burn throwback to not only Gothic horror, but 70’s supernatural cinema as well (with Robin Hardy’s 1973 paranormal opus The Wicker Man being the easiest comparison) with plenty of twists and turns offered along the way. The suspense level is kept high, and the sense of unease is palpable, as our protagonists slowly learn the sinister secret of the environment (presented in part as a story within the story) they have come to inhabit…and when they do we are treated to a great take on a classic creature that seldom gets it’s due in our beloved horror biz.
Also of note is the masterful use of the dreary Scottish locales that really bring a true sense of impending terror to the proceedings…but while that nightmarish feeling is evoked, the visuals nevertheless remain gorgeous…a kind of Beauty and the Beast ‘sitch if ya dig.
On the negative tip, if you are the type of cat that wants every question posed by a narrative answered in full, then The Isle is going to piss you off six ways to Sunday, as many elements of the puzzle at hand are unanswered and left up to you lot to decide.
With a reliance on atmosphere and world building in lieu of jump scares and gore; The Isle is a welcome throwback to the slow burn paranormal yarns of old (both Victorian and ’70’s supernatural cinema) and will surely satisfy aficionados of Lovecraft or Poe while coming across as unique and special in this age of remakes and slasher fappery.