Isolation (2005)

Rating: B-

Dir: Billy O’Brien
Star: John Lynch, Ruth Negga, Crispin Letts, Sean Harris

To think, I used to want to be a vet: it’s all James Herriot’s fault. Any last remnants of that dream are destroyed by this, in which it’s made clear that the lifestyle involves rolling around in muck at three in the morning, with your hand up a cow’s butt. The nearest I want to come to a farm or its inhabitants, is now the freezer section at the local supermarket. Anyway. Strapped for cash, dairy farmer Dan (Lynch) has agreed to take part in the dubious genetic experiment of a German doctor (Letts), intended to improve fertility, which leads to one of his cows giving birth to a mutant calf.

While the creature is put down, turns out it was already pregnant, and one of the six foetuses it contains not only survives, it escapes and is growing at a rapid rate. Enlisting the aid of two travellers (Negga + Harris), Dan and the Doctor have to try and locate the deformed beast, before it can leave the farm, and trigger an epidemic that would make foot and mouth look like a slight cold. Or, if you prefer the five-word synopsis: Alien on a dairy farm. It is certainly, the most poorly-lit dairy farm I’ve ever seen, and the inhabitants prefer to stumble around in semi-darkness, rather than do the sensible thing, and hunt in daylight. This eventually grows old, with rather too much crawling around air-ducts (or the agricultural establishment version thereof), but between that, and the over-exposure of veterinary gynaecological practice early on, this is a highly-creepy work.

It’s highlighted by some truly freakish monsters, which look like something out of a Cronenberg film [most notably, slithering up inside the bed where a woman is sleeping, in a sequence that reminded me of the bath-tub scene in Shivers]. It might have been better to have played up the “mutant bovine” angle, though credit the writers for not working even one “mad cow” line in there. The back-story of the travellers is hinted at, then fails to go anywhere; however, viewers will learn the best way to resuscitate a calf is apparently to swing around your head by its hooves. Who knew? Add this one to the pile of good reasons to stay out of the countryside. Medium-rare, please.