Chad Ridgely’s ‘Self Isolated’ (2021) Social Distancing Can Be A Real Nightmare – Movie Review

I have been waiting to review this movie for what feels like forever.

Sure, it’s only been about a year since I’ve known about the existence of Chad Ridgely’s (our interview) feature film directorial debut, Self Isolated, but as soon as I’d heard about it, I was chomping at the bit to see it. Actually, I was probably pretty annoying about it. And now, the time has finally come! I got to watch the finished product last night, and now I’m ready to talk about it. So, did Self Isolated live up to my expectations?

Synopsis:

After awakening from a coma, a woman searches for clues into her missing husband’s disappearance.

Self Isolated comes to us from Writer/Director Chad Ridgely (Massacre On Aisle 12 2016 – our review) and Full Auto Films. This tense thriller stars Ridgely, Massacre alum Doug Burch (our interview), Maggi Mayfield, and Rachel Alig (The Cleaning Lady 2019 – our review) and was produced by Chad and Maggi. The score was composed by Brooke deRosa (Luke Cage TV series) while the finished product was edited by Adam Huebner (Scamp 2019). DoP on the project was Justin Aquirre (Lunarcode franchise). Self Isolated made its premiere at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival on November 6, 2021, where it won the Outstanding Thriller award.

'Self Isolated'
Still from ‘Self Isolated’

 

What Works

Let’s start with the story. Susan (Mayfield) wakes up in her own bed, alone and hooked to machines that are seemingly keeping her alive. The TV is blaring the news of a worldwide pandemic that she has no idea about. She looks for her husband, David (Ridgely), in vain. Her nose starts to bleed, and it reminds her that she had been to the doctor recently and is extremely sick, the symptoms—dizziness, headaches, nausea, vertigo—sometimes incapacitating her. When she hears a noise outside, she’s surprised to find a masked thief stealing supplies off of her porch. This rattles her, but not as much as when an overly friendly, creepy neighbor, Walter (Burch), stops by to see if she needs anything. This kicks off a high octane cat-and-mouse game as Susan tries to find help from David—or anyone—without attracting the attention of the now obsessed Walter.

Then there’s the body horror. You wouldn’t think there would be any in a film like Self Isolated. I know I didn’t. But within the first few minutes, Susan tries to crawl out of bed but is held back by a catheter. It doesn’t sound that bad, right? But remember that a catheter goes into your urethra—you know, your pee tube—which is bad enough. But then when she pulls away, that same tube is holding her to the bed by this same body part. Imagine the tugging… And then later on, she rips an IV needle from her arm with her teeth to use to tear her duct tape restraints. Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of tearing at a vein like that gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I also love how Susan gets messages and memories from David. Because she had been in the coma for a brain-related illness, I’m assuming she forgot a lot of what they had gone through together. By giving her a camcorder to watch their old videos, Ridgely was able to show her relationship with the endearingly sweet, thoughtful David (the socks scene is worth its weight in gold) without taking the viewer out of the story. This was quite smart and easier to accept than the classic flashback scene.

Maggi Mayfield, Chad Ridgely, 'Self Isolated'
Maggi Mayfield and Chad Ridgely in ‘Self Isolated’

Love you. Mean it.

We have to talk about the villain of Self Isolated. Doug Burch plays the too-close-for-comfort Walter with a sinister ease. He goes from friendly neighbor to maniacal psycho and back again so many times in each scene that you almost can’t separate the man from the monster. He gave me serious Bill Oberst, Jr. vibes—if you know me, then you know how much I love the extremely talented BOJ. Another thing about Walter is that he’s always asking for food. Why is he so hungry? And what is he hungry for exactly?

I found a few hidden Easter eggs from two of Chad’s previous films. First, there was the Vigo the Carpathian-esque portrait from the film 6:66PM (2017 – our review), and then a DVD of Massacre On Aisle 12 hidden in a drawer. If you look quickly during the hospital gown scene, you’ll even see the infamous Bucky the Beaver from the latter film. Don’t blink though!

There’s a twist at the end of Self Isolated that I never saw coming, and it left me feeling more dread than I thought something like that would. Maybe it’s the fact that the film is about a pandemic and it was filmed during our pandemic? The look of paranoia and expectancy in all of the actor’s faces is true emotion, since at the time, they had no idea what Covid-19 might actually become.

Maggi Mayfield, Chad Ridgely, 'Self Isolated'
Maggi Mayfield in ‘Self Isolated’

The score for the film is simple but effective. The soft drums—so like a muffled heartbeat—bring a subconscious terror that you don’t even have to think about; it’s just there the whole time. The lighting and cinematography are beautiful. It’s never too dark or washed out, and the details pop wonderfully. I love the drone shots over David and Susan on the beach, and the way the camera is like a bug on the wall, watching everything happen from even the tightest of corners. The editing is top notch, creating scenes just long enough to instill perfect tension and mystery without overstaying or cutting them too close to make things unclear.

What Doesn’t Work

There are a few things that I questioned in Self Isolated. I thought Maggi’s acting could be a bit stilted and one-note at times. She is supposed to be in shock with the situation she woke up in, so honestly, that’s probably why the actress reacted that way.

I also think Walter could have started off as more friendly and less scary at the beginning, making it more of a build up to his insanity rather than just dropping it on Susan’s doorstep from the moment we meet him.

The camera could be too shaky at times. Nothing serious, but a few scenes were a bit rocky as far as the camera work went.

Chad Ridgely, 'Self Isolated'
Chad Ridgely in ‘Self Isolated’

Final Thoughts

Self Isolated is a tense, uncomfortable thriller that plays into our fears of the Covid-19 virus and the terror of being left alone with no bearings and no idea of what’s going on. Susan’s confusion and the symptoms of her illness leave her nearly incapacitated at times, and with no one to talk to to compare notes, she’s left with only her swirling thoughts and the messages left to her from David. The film reminds me of the beginning of The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later where a comatose man wakes up, defenseless and unprepared, in the aftermath of the end of the world. The idea of closing my eyes and waking up alone in a completely alien environment is terrifying to me. Add to that the one human being I can find being an overly friendly creep, and you’ve got yourself a disturbing, adrenaline-spiked pot-boiler that I’m going to simultaneously love and want to avoid. Do yourself a favor and check out Self Isolated once it’s released upon the world.

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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