THE ISLE is a wonderfully crafted piece of filmmaking, superbly shot and acted.
The story begins with chaos and confusion. Three shipmates are plunged into the icy cold depths after their merchant ship mysteriously sinks.
Seemingly lost at sea and with little hope of survival, the men’s grim fate is given a respite as they come across a gloomy island. With their last bit of energy, they manage to reach it to shore and find they are somewhere off the west coast of Scotland. The appearance of a few residents initially gives them relief, but it isn’t long before things on the isle are not what they seem.
The script develops nicely, taking a ghostly tale of lost ships at sea from Scottish folklore and weaving an intricate and satisfying thriller.
Directed and co-written by British filmmaker Matthew Butler Hart, the film is engaging and smart, and never relies on cheap tactics or jump scares. It is also surprisingly romantic and melancholy, much like its source material.
The most significant attribute is that the story is allowed to take its time and Hart doesn’t force the chills but allows the characters to question their seeming saviors slowly.
The cast, headed by Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) is terrific and the tension builds as the thick fog of mystery is slowly evaporated revealing a dark and supernatural desire for vengeance.
But the main character of the film is the Island itself. The setting can be both beautiful and disconsolate under Pete Wallington’s beautiful cinematography that harkens back to the beautiful stylistic work of the films of Hammer Studios and Val Lewton.
Some of the effects work featuring the mist and fog makes you wish for a little bigger visual effects budget, but that is a small moment of imperfection in an otherwise perfect tale. I miss films like this. Like any good ghost tale, THE ISLE will stay with you.
THE ISLE opens on February 8 in Los Angeles, select cities, and VOD.
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