Isolation is a frequently effective plot device in horror. There are few things more terrifying than being cut off from any potential savior while *insert horror villain here* is trying to kill you. Bringing to mind films like The Thing, and more accurately, 30 Days of Night, Josh Gerritsen‘s Island Zero places its characters in a hopeless and helpless location, disconnected from the rest of the world while a horrifying and deadly event begins claiming victims.
The film focuses on the inhabitants of a fishing island in the Maine area, as mysterious creatures from the water begin making their way on land and feasting on members of the community. Though noticeably lower in budget than my comparisons (and never as effective), Island Zero earns a considerable amount of respect in its middle act. After a rocky first scene that involves an old drunk man and his dog on a boat (the death of a dog is such an on-the-nose danger cliche that I nearly checked out right away), Gerritsen’s film settles into a groove as it introduces its many characters to the on-coming threat and works to get each of them in the same place. While the acting is merely serviceable and the dialogue verges on literal cheese at times, the film manages to effectively use the isolated setting and unraveling mystery to build an apt amount of genuine suspense.
Unfortunately, as the mystery unravels, so does the surprisingly sustained quality of the film. It almost feels as if Tess Gerritsen, who penned the screenplay, wrote herself into a corner, jotted down several final-act reveals, and pulled one of them out of a hat. The thread of suspense that was prevalent throughout the fifty or so prior minutes proves easily undone by cringe-inducing silliness. The characters suddenly begin to act against type, the plot turns absolutely bonkers (one character communicates with the creatures through a computer), and the reveal of the creatures themselves, though mostly seen through the lens of an infrared camera, is laughable and quite disappointing.
It’s a shame that the contained suspense of Island Zero eventually drowns in a high tide of absurdity. What starts well, sadly, does not always end the same way. You can skip this one.