Three sailors become shipwrecked and happen upon an island inhabited by a harbor man, a mad woman, a farmer and his daughter, and a supernatural presence that holds them hostage.
It is quite the conundrum – when you are adrift at sea and you see a creepy island, do you take your chances at being found on the water? Or do you brave said creepy island? In the 1800s, suspense, thriller, The Isle (2018), the hapless heroes of this story regretfully settle on the latter.
Three sailors lost at sea, the lone survivors of a sixteen-man crew, find themselves coming about “the Island” whose shores suddenly appear through the other-worldly, impenetrable fog that caused their shipwreck. They are unexpectedly greeted by Fingal MacLeod (Dickon Tyrrell) who offers them plenty of aid and shelter, but suspiciously avoids their most pressing question – how do we get off of the island? The longer the sailors stay on the island, the more often supernatural episodes occur, as Captain Oliver Gosling (Alex Hassell) begins to experience flashbacks and visions of uncomfortable events after reading from a diary (you must not read from the book!), and his fellow remaining shipmates Cailean Ferris (Fisayo Akinade) and Jim Bickley (Graham Butler) are plagued and petrified by glimpses of a mysterious and sinister woman. With seemingly no help in returning home from their secretive borders, the crew beings to seek resources around the island to use to get back to their homeland.
I’m not sure what rule number it is, but everyone knows you may not survive the horror movie if you say “I’ll be right back”, however in their desperation to get off of the island sooner rather than later, the sailors split up to explore the island for materials. When one of the crew members fails to return from his reconnaissance and turns up dead by morning, the men of the island eventually break their silence and lament the story of “The Drowned Woman” aka Persephone, so named after the goddess of death, who torments all who go near the island with horrible sounds that both tempts and strikes fear in its hearers. After piecing together the mystery of the origins of the supernatural presence holding them hostage on the island, the dwindling crew attempts to make their escape. But hell hath no fury as a woman scorned.
The old storyline of a siren song is given a modern update with style and story content, though the movie does successfully root its setting in the Victorian era. The melancholy orchestral score against the dark and gloomy aesthetic captures the dreary-ness of the 19th century European time period. Personally, I think this aesthetic could have been played up more to add horror – jump scares from glimpses of mystical figures are creepy and all, but they’re on a practically desolate, sparsely inhabited island being haunted and hunted by a ghost yet I never feared for anyone’s life. Though lives were, indeed, lost. Even still, the stunned-eye, knowing expressions of the bewitching women that inhabit this island makes for one pretty darn eerie period piece.
The Isle is directed by Matthew Butler-Hart and the screenplay is co-written by him and his wife, Tori Butler-Hart, who also stars in the film. It reminded me of the Wicker Man, with flickers of the Village and The Woman in Black – if you enjoy movies with secretive people in the woods, then The Isle will be right up your alley.
Matthew Butler Hart
Matthew Butler Hart, Tori Butler Hart