The Isle-Movie Review: Sirens and Sorrow Combine To Make Beautiful Horror
The Isle is a gorgeous tale of mythical creatures, feminine rage, and regret.
Courtesy of Cleves Media and Fizz and Ginger Films
The Isle written by the husband and wife team of Mathew and Tori Butler-Hart is a misty nightmare of guilt, vengeance, and savage landscapes. Director Mathew Butler does a masterful job showcasing the beauty and harshness of the setting. Borrowing from Irish, Scottish, and Greek folklore The Isle creates an entirely new ghost story. Three sailors find themselves washed up on the shore of a small island off the West Coast of Scotland injured, confused, and cold. Their boat capsized under mysterious circumstances, and the rest of the crew perished. They quickly realize that they are not safe on this island with few inhabitants but many secrets. The village on the isle is no longer viable and all the residents have vanished. Part fantasy and part ghoulish revenge tale this story of a woman wronged, and the punishment she metes out to those who wronged her is a familiar one, but the Scottish folklore twist, incredible location, and memorable score give this film something others in the same vein don’t have unforgettable imagery. Heavy 1970’s slow burn influences are felt as the film unfolds in agonizing detail. The pacing, although purposely slow holds you with the anticipation of what is to come.
As much a tourist advertisement for this small Island in the UK as a Gothic film, this place creeps in and holds fast until the song calls you to shore as well. The plot is cohesive if slightly predictable and the dialogue although very natural is somewhat too modern for the period portrayed. This is a minor complaint, however, as it is entirely believable. You can easily imagine yourself in a similar situation saying to your fellow survivors, “There are only four people on this island, and they are all weird.”. It’s these unexpected moments of humor and truth that allow the more emotional beats to resonate so strongly.
The score by Tom Kane is worth watching the movie by itself. The music is so haunting and full of grief you won’t soon forget it. It is as if he channeled the Sirens himself to create the music. Every song is full of history and pain. The music truly brings the island and the story to life. The lilt of the Scottish brogue and the spray of the cold sea are in every note. This Scottish island is untamed and dangerous. The music is just as wild and sweeping. Tremendous crescendos and lilting harmonies become as much a part of the story as the plot. The special effects work, especially the water and seduction scenes were very effective even given such a small budget. The scenes felt disorienting and jarring purposefully and contributed to the overall fear the sailors portrayed. The acting by the trio of sailors is very good with Fisayo Akinade being a likable foil to his salty companions. The real standouts are Tori Butler-Hart and Alix Wilton Regan. They are the heart and soul of this film. They are sympathetic and horrifying all at the same time. The brief scenes of Emma King as Persephone are compelling in their simplicity.
Blurring the lines between Scottish Morroughs, Banshees, Irish Selkies, and Greek Sirens the women of The Isle are part tragic character and part devastating destroyer. Persephone is a terrible inevitability. Just like the creatures from whom they are modeled, they are beautiful and deadly as they lure unsuspecting men to their island to crash on the rocky shore. Almost every region has a tale like this. The Slavic Rusalka is a beautiful drowned spirit who seduces with her looks and voice and then drowns men. Morgan le Fay from the King Arthur stories drew inspiration from the Welsh Morgens, and Sirenia the biological origin name of sea cows is named for Homer’s women of power. It is this mixing of the traditional folklore and an old-fashioned ghost story that make this film unique.
A film you won’t soon forget and a score that stays in your head like the most lovely earworm, The Isle is a seductive mistress. Stream this anywhere and prepare to be enchanted by this alluring movie.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.