Directed by: Matthew Butler Hart
Starring: Alex Hassell, Dickon Tyrrell, Graham Butler, Fisayo Akinade, Conleth Hill, Tori Butler Hart, Alix Wilton Regan, Emma King
Indie Film Review By: Jack Bottomley
The ghosts of our past often come back to haunt us, be it in a troubling regressive thought or literally paying for a mistake. This is just the way it is in life; however, sometimes the past not only haunts us but also traps and torture us and it is little wonder that storytellers have, for generations, cautioned us on watching our actions in the present as they may come back to get us in the future. Alas, mankind rarely listens but such tales are ingrained into the fabric of many different cultures and have spurred on countless stories of ghosts, witches and all manner of other darkness of immeasurable extent. And in Matthew Butler Hart’s Gaelic ghoul tale, we have another story of the past attacking the present.
The film is set in 1846 on a remote Scottish island, as 3 worn down men drift on a small boat towards the nearest mist-laden land after being shipwrecked. On this mysterious island, they encounter a man who takes them in to his home but soon realize that there is far more sinister goings on at play, as this island and its inhabitants hold a troubling secret.
No doubt, you have heard of similar tales before as this one and come the final stretch of the film, the actual mystery is not all that shocking a revelation. The Isle is an old fashioned supernatural-tinged drama, with horror elements and period settings and while slow at points, the film has its fair share of effective atmospherics, as it evokes sea faring fears of being shipwrecked and stranded on an unknown place. Tori (who also co-stars in the feature) and Matthew Butler Hart’s screenplay may not shock those familiar with such stories and some sequences are a tad frantic (a sex scene mid-film) but in their setting and characters, they have constructed a film that is still resourceful in raising some strong moments of tension.
The limitations of budget can often crop up and up skittle independent films but The Isle is blessed with a setting that is absolutely stunning. The jagged hills, misty seas and ocean crashing against the rocky shores are really the true stars here and director of photography Pete Wallington has done a splendid job in giving the story precisely the right backdrop. True a few night scenes are a touch too darkly lit to fully decipher but it hardly mars the overall impact of the cinematography.
Add to this a wicked (in more ways than one) score by Tom Kane, with a haunting use of melody, and you have yourself a feature that uses every inch of its superb scenery to tremendous effect. In many ways evoking the look of films like The Witch and The Wicker Man in its ragged environments and morally ambiguous isolated communities. The production design by Gini Godwin and Sophia Stocco, Costume Design by Melanie Jane Brookes and some strong Hair and Make-Up work (considering the budget) by Becci Mapes, all of melt into this natural backdrop and feel successfully vintage and, where necessary, rather unsettling.
Hart’s film really makes such great use of the elements at hand and a very talented cast and crew and Hart knows what tone he is aiming for. The characters, like the plot, are not all too surprising or complex but in the second half and once the story gets going, certain characters are allowed to flicker more brightly. Alex Hassell makes for a strong lead as Oliver, with Fisayo Akinade and Graham Butler being good support. However the strongest performances come from Dickon Tyrrell and Conleth Hill, while Tori Butler Hart, Alix Wilton Regan and Emma King’s parts are given more depth in a well-played ending.
The Isle is an enjoyable supernatural drama/horror, which has some long drawn out moments but ultimately offers some effectively atmospheric moments, thanks to the hard work of all involved and how they use the elements they have at their disposal.
Watch the official movie trailer for The Isle below.
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