Donald Martin (screenplay by)
ISABELLE is a psychological thriller that treads on the successes of past horror classics like ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE EXORCIST. The lead character is a pregnant mother and the character is being possessed by some demon who wants to live in the human world.
Director Rob Heydon sets the stage at the film’s start with several audience anticipation moves. An all-American couple (though the film was shot in Hamilton and Toronto, Canada) moves into a New England neighbourhood. First comes a scream from the pregnant mother, Larissa (Amanda Crew). “The baby kicked me. She is strong.” “You don’t want this baby.” These are words that propose that things are going to get nasty.
True to expectations, things do not get better. Larissa meets the odd next door neighbour, Ann (nicely played by Sheila McCarthy) and her wheelchair bound daughter, Isabel (Zoe Belkin), who spends all the time staring at her through her second floor bedroom window.
Larissa loses the baby. She becomes terribly depressed and prescribed depression medication that seems to make her go all weird and paranoid. There is only so much hubby Matt can tolerate. The script introduces a weird looking pastor who actually is normal and tries to help the couple. The music is also greta at creating the mood of a scary atmosphere.
The film contains some great genuinely scary moments. “I want to see my baby,” demands Larissa after delivering her stillborn. But they never let the audience see it, well perhaps only a glimpse.
Director Heydon sure is adept at keeping the mood of the film successfully creepy. The dead baby keeps appearing out of nowhere to invade Larissa’s dreams to just shock her. The baby’s scorching red eyes add to the scares. Red eyes are commonly used, as witnessed too with Chuck’s eyes in CHILD’S PLAY, also opening this week. Larissa also acts weird but McCarthy’s neighbour is sufficiently creepy all on her own. The camera shot of a newspaper article of a child abuser adds on even more. It is assumed that Isabel is be the daughter of the child abuser, though the spelling of Isabel is different from the title of the film.
The film has a short running length of less than 90 minutes. For this short a running time, too much happens – especially at the end, so that credibility is stretched to the limit. It is not that audiences would believe what transpires on screen anyway, but too much occurring too fast in a hour film tends to come off as silliness.
The best thing about the film is its build up of the couple’s paranoia and how it affects both the husband and mother – and how they cope with it together. At times, one wonders whether the film is just a psychological drama with no supernatural element. ISABELLE ends up a satisfactory low budget horror thriller – the typical Canadian flick that stands in as an American one in order to expand its target audience but the film is up for stiff competition opening the same week as CHILD’S PLAY.