[BITS 2018 Review] Rob Heydon's 'Isabelle'

Horror is taking on a new form, and we’re seeing talent come out of many places. As a featured film in the Blood in the Snow festival, we must give a nod to the great work coming out of Canada. Isabelle is a collaboration filmed entirely in Canada and set in upstate New York with a good number of Americans on the bill.

We’re at this point in horror where filmmakers explore different subgenres of horror and the specific decade defining genre is anyone’s call. One thing that does seem to be more prevalent, the newest and some of the most popular horror films such as Hereditary and Babadook often involve the invasion and breakdown of a family. While the forces are both internal and external, they slowly tear us apart and damage the trust and love in one another. Isabelle takes notice of that trend and presents an intimate look into the horrors a romantic relationship faces.

Larissa and Matt move into their new home and prepare for the arrival of their first child, but their dreams shatter before the family even has a chance to begin. The neighbor’s daughter, only seen peering through the window, might have something to do with it, and what starts as something just creepy, cascades to a haunting.

Isabelle is part ghost story, part home and psychological invasion. The transition into a psychological hell pulls you into each character’s deepest fears through moments that could be brief insanity or satanic cat and mouse. The effects are simple with little consideration to putting much effort into the appearance of Isabelle, instead relying on her actions and demeanor to shake you. The script is wonderfully written with consideration taken to each character’s state without over exaggerating and giving them a genuinely authentic performance. Additionally, with the care taken into the composition itself, Isabelle is a genuinely well-shot film and fell rather easy on the eyes.

With several paths to try to heal Larissa, the assistance of a doctor, priest, spiritual counselor, and family, their involvement further complicates her recovery and inevitable descent. As each individual leaves, another comes in creating this revolving door of influence where rarely is more than one person supportive at a time, creating a transition between influences and often sways the feeling of the film to almost reach beyond a single genre exploring the many evils of the world. Sometimes it’s religion, sometimes it is medicine, but more times than not it is ourselves, and in the end that is often it is our own will that defeats it.

Isabelle screens at Blood in the Snow Film Festival in Toronto on Monday, November 26th at 9:30pm.


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