Well-known for her Rizzoli & Isles series of novels (then television series), Tess Gerritsen (retired medical doctor) knows how to make people’s spines tingle lives in Maine, a state where the King of horror novels Stephen exists. In 1993, she wrote a screenplay for a thriller entitled Adrift, and taking that first step into the horror realm with the creation of Island Zero, with her son Josh making his directorial debut on a low budget, that combines The Fog (1980) and Island of Terror (1966) for audiences. The mother-son duo worked out of their home state, covering different locations such as Northport to Islesboro, taking a page from a King novel, using places, which are familiar, for a scientist laughed at by colleagues telling of new species hunting the seas (he’s a low-key but respected doomsayer). The motto of the film and others invoking the theme something out there, while the tagline places emphasis clearly on “Everything needs to eat” but if you know your horror history, and the films I mentioned earlier you will get a clear understanding of this creation. Island Zero, a tale of terror, death, and isolationism received distribution through Freestyle Digital Media.
The inhabitants of a fishing island off the coast of Maine seem to be doing well, until a few days before Christmas, when the first mainland ferries stop coming and then losing contact with the world, no communications and dwindling supplies. Sounds like an interesting end of the world scenario, and promising horror ride, except it shows more of a tv-movie and mild offensive material. The portion of the film starts with Island Zero as the title of the novel being written by a stranger named Titus (Matthew Wilkas), so he tells the doctor Maggie (Laila Robins). She and he, curious in nature, both perhaps wearing masks, but on a small island the outsiders, either visiting or helping on a temporary basis, discovers how well does one know each other. Everyone starts hoarding, no longer trusting anyone as the ferry, never returns and anglers all start vanishing never returning, or their decks covered in blood. The body count rises, slowly, something in the waters obvious feeding, borrowing from Jaws (1975) and even Grabbers (2012). Meanwhile, Sam (Adam Wade McLaughlin) a marine biologist still mourning his recently deceased wife who both knew of the unseen threat, while his new journalist girlfriend Lucy (Teri Reeves), on the brink of leaving him, and his teenage daughter Allie (Elaine Landry), happens to have got a new infra-red camera for Christmas, opens it early, all viewers see this foreshadowing. The story keeps the tension on a tight path, but things begin unraveling in the third act, with regard to many characters’ backstories, while light gore tries to hold on tightly, Josh works on not showing the creatures. His creatures seem to pull a bit from a H.P. Lovecraft’s creation, but when actually shown, a tad laughable, and their history also odd, but common when a budget cannot match the scare-factors. However, Sam’s character gives factual data marine biology concerning that fact only explored 5% of Earth’s oceans, some areas deeper than that of the tallest surface mountains. Some of the elderly townsfolk give nice one-liners , to break the tension, also Tess’ script includes hidden racial tones and other suggestive motives when the supplies run low.
The camerawork, works very well, giving at times a voyeur look, perhaps from the creature and some incredible drone aerial shots that note the island and distance from the mainland. Grim weather adds to the atmosphere, allowing for doom and gloom, while noting something about the creatures. One could do without all the title cards noting the days and countdown to Christmas while this might help with story pacing, it ruins it, a simple writing in the corner of the screen works fine. When one sees the title card for Christmas and how it’s written it literally gives away everything the story worked to earn.
This movie will not blow away the typical horror fan by any means, it likely serves for those that seek a crossover of thrillers into the genre of horror, a movie which one could find on AMC or Lifetime, as the tame language, any sexual suggestions more of squeaking bed frames heard in another room. A series of odd character choices leave some scratching their heads and wonder if the sea creatures are simply interested in something new to eat on their menus.
Tagline: Everything needs to eat.
IMDb Rating: 4.2/10
Baron’s Rating: 4.0/10