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  Isabelle Stare Of Satan
Year: 2018
Director: Robert Heydon
Stars: Amanda Crew, Adam Brody, Zoë Belkin, Sheila McCarthy, Krista Bridges, Alison Brooks, Booth Savage, Dayo Ade, Zoe Doyle, Shanice Banton, David Tompa, Michael Miranda, John Healey, Andrew Fleming, Sam Malkin, Markjan Winnick, Mark Waters
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Larissa (Amanda Crew) and Matt (Adam Brody) Kane are a couple in their thirties who have moved into a new home in preparation for the birth of their first child, and the baby is due in a few weeks. They are understandably looking forward to this, and have the support of family members, but the only thing that Larissa regards as a fly in the ointment is her new neighbours, an elderly lady (Sheila McCarthy) who stays with her disabled daughter Isabelle (Zoë Belkin), who spends her days sitting in her wheelchair by her bedroom window and staring out - usually at Larissa. But then tragedy occurs when she suffers complications a few days before her due date and loses the baby.

Now, starting a film with a stillbirth is not exactly the best way to get things off to a swinging beginning, and so it was that like many a low budget horror movie, Isabelle was grappling with subjects it was ill-equipped to handle with the skill required to either be taken seriously, or rejected outright. Nevertheless, that was what director Robert Heydon and his screenwriter Donald Martin kicked off with, and predictably the film never recovered from it, never mind its bereaved lead characters, it was simply too realistic an issue to be entertaining in a cheapo horror flick and if it was wanting to be sincere in its exploration of grief, maybe it would be better off without the nonsense.

Said nonsense dragged in the subject of Satanic ritual abuse to explain why its disabled character is sitting doing nothing all day but stare at her neighbour. At first, we think she is simply mentally challenged, which would explain why she finds this activity entertaining, but nope, nothing so sensitive, she's actually possessed by Satan. We know this because Larissa looks her up on the internet and discovers Isabelle's father was arrested for selling her soul to the devil when she was a child, something that would be ridiculous in an amusing way had it not been unfortunately clear that Martin believed SRA was a real happening and not an highly damaging social panic myth that hypocritically ignored the countless children abused by Christians of many denominations.

Make no mistake, Satanic possession in the movies made for classic horror - in a few cases, but endlessly recycling aspects of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist does not a great film make (Heydon throws in another Roman Polanski movie, Repulsion, for good measure), no matter the numbingly abundant number of imitators those had spawned. And the fact these pictures were informing too many audience's views of spirituality, be they Christian or otherwise, could have been evidence that thinking on the profound was too hard work for most people to bother with, but the converse of that was they allowed facile efforts like this to do their thinking for them, when there was no sign this had any answers whatsoever about the matters beyond this Earthly realm. Was that what we were invited to contemplate?

With Isabelle, it was a definite maybe: there were scenes where Larissa's post-natal depression was treated like an excuse for shallow Christian lecturing that did more harm than good, and that did not make for enjoyable cinema. Otherwise, we were in jump scare territory as Crew wandered around a house that, like all the other houses, appeared to be lit by ten watt bulbs if at all, and in the gloom an apparition of her tormentor would spring up to make her scream or collapse - or in one instance of unintentional laughter, fall out of a window. There were too few good laughs here in what could have been entertainingly nutty, but the stillbirth ruined any mood conducive to that sort of diversion, and also the way we were asked to find an obviously psychologically damaged woman the battleground for the deity and His counterpart to play out their pointless games failed to prove its worth, either as philosophy or a decent horror. It just was not up to the task it set itself and its "all a dream"-equivalent plotting was insulting. Music by Mark Korven.

[ISABELLE will be available on Sky Store, iTunes and UK digital platforms from 30th September. Click here to buy from the iTunes website. ]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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