Star rating (out of 5): ★★★
Directed by: #JDRothRound
Written by: #JDRothRound
Iso-Pocalyptis is a psychological horror from J D Roth-Round, available to watch on the UK Film Channel. All shot on a Samsung Smartphone in a month for less than £300, it's a micro-budget lockdown movie that he wrote, filmed and stars in. J D Roth-Round has an interesting film and family history to boot. He’s appeared in several major studio movies himself, his great aunt won the Wimbledon ladies title and his grandfather was a member of the magic circle and was a dentist – something that has quite an influence on one of the film’s scenes mentioned herein.
Set in a typical built up suburban area in the UK, Daniel Fuller (J D Roth Round) returns home from being away abroad to find his house in a mess and discovers his wife and kid are dead. We don’t know how this has happened or why the house is in such a state of derelict neglect (apart from making an ideal location for a low budget film) but it’s the trigger for Daniel to go into meltdown. Fuelled by alcohol, his emotional trauma is causing his movements to quickly become erratic throughout the day and he starts hallucinating too, mostly in the form of creepy crawly bugs.
Momentarily he makes an attempt at getting the house and himself straighten out and whilst he tries to keep to a good routine of cleaning, exercising, going outside and reading, he can’t seem to get away from his alcohol and smoking addiction or make burial arrangements for his wife and child for that matter either, which with the self-isolation is having a bad impact on his deteriorating psychological well-being. With his continued bouts of paranoia he begins to self-harm. His face continually contorts with tension and mental torment and the continual build-up of erratic-edginess reaches a climactic crescendo when without reason he decides to remove one of his lovely teeth with a pair of pliers. Intermittently he swigs on a bottle of vodka before muttering to himself afterwards as the blood pours out of his mouth ‘nurse, the anaesthetisation did not work’ – hopefully this was not drawing upon one of his grandfather’s anecdotes.
The filming starts with a first person camera view, which combined with a selfie camera rig (which he made himself from a mop handle and selfie stick) gives an immersive feeling as we follow Daniel’s movements around the house, all this combined with the opening credits gives a clear clue as to the films premise that remains otherwise unmentioned until the gruesome end.
The sound mix is unsettling throughout, heightening the mental distress and there are some nice music tracks interwoven into the film but they don’t all necessarily match the mood. Offering a sense of smooth melancholic optimism that is in total contrast to the chaotic and upsetting carry-on.
As an indie movie clearly inspired by lockdown with a nod to the mundane frustrations, boredom and monotony at best, along with the mental health problems associated with being in isolation, heavy drinking and dealing with trauma; all taken here to the extreme and given a horror film touch that is not without some craft and skill especially considering the limitations of the budget, resources and timeframe. It is an uncomfortable watch in its own painful repetition that is both disturbing and frightening in its message that could raise a psychotic wry smile about the UK’s lockdown condition.