September 25, 2023

ISLAND ZERO (2017) : Mysteries of the Deep!

Freestyle Releasing’s latest offering gets reviewed by ScareTissue’s resident MOnster!

“A fishing community on a remote Maine island finds itself suddenly cut off from the rest of the world after the ferry stops coming. When people start to vanish, the terrified survivors realize that someone – or something – is hunting them.”

Directed by Josh Gerritsen, and written by Tess Gerritsen of Rizzoli & Isles fame, ISLAND ZERO may not have the biggest budget in history and may also be a throwback to the creature-features of the 70s and 80s, but it does deliver. Something else that it does – and does well – is reflect an anxious contemporary society’s fears about a myriad of things including isolation, the exhaustion of natural resources and governmental disregard for the individual.

On The Water’s Surface:

Shot in Rockport and Camden, Maine, the film’s Spartan production design accurately reflects the simplicity of life on an isolated island off the coast of that most spooky of states. The island itself has a bleak and inhospitable beauty and is connected to the mainland – to civilization – only by a hit-and-miss ferry. What starts out as a routine Christmas season with visitors and seasonal workers waiting to leave for the mainland soon disintegrates into a time of terror for both those left on the island and those trying to escape. Mysterious disappearances and deaths abound, with bloody, disemboweled and dismembered corpses being left as hideous clues as to what is terrorizing the island’s denizens. After the majority of islanders try to escape on two overloaded boats, only a few hardy souls are left to face a newly-discovered apex predator. Whoever will win this bloody encounter will then confront an even more pervasive evil: The US government.

Themes In The Depths:

In a world where every single soul seems to be connected by social media and technology, the growing isolation of the islanders is viewed with total terror by both isle-inhabitants and film-viewers alike. As they realize the extent of their aloneness, the island dwellers shed layer after layer of civilization and find themselves doing things they would never have dreamed of doing had the plastic walls of civilization stayed standing. Although this kind of set-up is de rigueur for this sub-genre, here the removal of layers reveals even more secrets.

Fear of the depletion of the earth’s natural resources is also very much part of the film’s deeper themes. In fact, the guilt of the race responsible for overfishing the oceans lurks, embarrassed, in the foreground because the villain of the piece – the new apex predator – would never have come to anyone’s notice had their natural food source not been decimated. Humans are well-known as two legged predators who think they can wreak whatever havoc they like without facing consequences, but, in this case, the consequences are front and center and are biting everyone on the a$$!

Rounding out this trio of existential terrors is the exploration of the vulnerability of an isolated community to government f*ckery. Not to spoil anything for those who haven’t yet seen the film, all I’m going to say here is that the governmental cavalry is not exactly galloping at top speed to save the stricken islanders…

Competent performances are given by all, with standouts being Homeland’s Laila Robins as Maggie, the island’s enigmatic substitute doctor-with-a-unexpected-and-never-fully-explained-past, and the incredibly cute Anabel Graetz as Ruth, the oldster whose main concern is having Maggie “fix” her ailing husband! The film also has a definite 70s/80s feel: It’s pacing is not as frenetically quick as is often found with today’s modern offerings and, in structure, it follows the basic plotlines of, say, the Jaws’ sequels pretty faithfully.

My favorite moments included the visual pictures painted by leading man Adam Wade McLaughlin’s “whale bones at the bottom of the ocean” speech and the rather startling realization that I was being handed an explanation on a plate for such mysteries as what really happened on the Mary Celeste, the Carroll A. Deering and other ghostly abandoned ships…

My least favorite moments included dealing with the slight predictability of the script and realizing that, with a bit more of a budget, the Big Bads and the mayhem they caused would have looked so much more convincing.

A mention must also be made of the ending: it is bleak, powerful, full of courage, full of despair and is incredibly sad and, at the same time, incredibly uplifting.

ISLAND ZERO is being released on VOD nationwide by Freestyle Releasing on May 15th 2018.

You can get a taste of ISLAND ZERO right here:

Also, if you’re intrigued by Ghost Ships, check this out!

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