ISOLATION 119 (2015): Directorial Debut

Poster for ISOLATION 119 - image source: official movie press kit

Poster for ISOLATION 119 – image source: official movie press kit

 

Director Kevin Baker with the canine member of the cast - image source: official film press kit

Director Kevin Baker with the canine member of the cast – image source: official film press kit

Kevin Baker is a first-time indie filmmaker who about has no qualms about revealing that making this film was an experiment for him. According to Icons of Fright, Baker “started it as a Kickstarter project, promoting it as a do it yourself indie film that, if successfully funded, could help encourage the everyday person pick up a camera and film their own movies even without professional experience.” Although the crowdfunding gambit wasn’t successful, he made the film anyway, serving as producer, director, cinematographer, and film editor, as well as playing the lead role. Set in Thailand, the film was actually shot on location in Laos. With an estimated budget of $2,000 (according to IMDbPro), this film is a true low-budget indie. With these funding constraints, Baker made the gutsy choice to make his first film a feature-length production.

ISOLATION 119 – Story

The story based on the Thai legend of Mae Nak Phra Khanong. In short, Mae Nak (translated as Lady Nak, as she is commonly known) is a Thai ghost who is so well-known that a shrine in Bangkok (on the Phra Khanong canal where her story took place) has been dedicated to her. Mae Nak is popular because of her literally undying devotion to her husband. Her nasty side is that she has a history of terrorizing the people of Phra Khanong.

Mae Nak as imagined by GHOST OF MAE NAK (2005) - image source: Horrorthon

Mae Nak as imagined by GHOST OF MAE NAK (2005) – image source: Horrorthon

Wikipedia currently lists at least twenty Thai film and stage productions based on the legend of Mae Nak. Baker’s film, set in the present, focuses on Jack (Baker), who comes to Bangkok because of his brother’s suicide attempt. He takes up residence in his brother’s house (on the Phra Khanong canal). He visits his brother in the hospital, where he lies in an apparently irreversible coma. Jack has had a recent nervous breakdown because his wife left him, so he’s in a shaky mental state. While trying to find out why his brother would try to kill himself, Jack starts to have experiences that challenge his tenuous grip on sanity.

Jack (Baker) sees his estranged wife in the bathroom mirror - image source: official film press kit

Jack (Baker) sees his estranged wife in the bathroom mirror – image source: official film press kit

First, a local loan shark shows up and demands that Jack repay the money that his brother allegedly borrowed from her. Then Jack finds a piece of framed artwork depicting a ghastly female demon. He learns that it is Mae Nak, whose legend he learns through online research. It turns out that Mae Nak first tries to provoke her victims into killing themselves. If they refuse suicide, she kills them herself. Jack makes the connection between this story and his brother’s recent history. Then he starts to have paranormal experiences inside his brother’s house, punctuated by escalating threats from the loan shark about what will happen if he doesn’t repay her. What is real and what is not is unclear until the final scene of the film.

ISOLATION 119 – Pros

  • STORY: A creative take on an intriguing Thai ghost story not well known to Western viewers. Nobody gets the credit for the screenplay on IMDb, so I’m assuming that Baker wrote it.
  • CINEMATOGRAPHY: For a newcomer to indie filmmaking, Baker has done quality work as a DP. Some of his footage of exterior scenes is quite good.
  • MUSICAL SCORE: The original music for the film (by Kevin MacLeod) fits the intended tone of the scenes in which it is used.

ISOLATION 119 – Cons

  • ACTING: Somewhat flat and wooden, but this is not uncommon with a non-professional cast.
  • EDITING: There are too many fade-to-black scene transitions. Perhaps other techniques, such as jump cuts, would have worked better in certain cases. Also, there are captions that explain characters’ back-stories. These would work better if they had not been presented with a comic tone. Nevertheless, the editing is quite good for a first-time editor.
  • SPECIAL EFFECTS: There is a tendency to rely on VFX in cases where physical FX would have been more realistic and believable. One example is a scene in which a character receives a gunshot wound to the head. Once again, however, Baker went all out to do the best effects possible.

ISOLATION 119 – Summary

“Isolation 119” is an interesting and gutsy first feature film effort from a new indie horror director who started literally from scratch. I would give this film an IMDb rating of 4/10 stars, but each time I have tried to do so, the message, “Sorry, there was a problem, ” pops up (N.B., the film has less than five votes on IMDb).

Disclosure: Loud Green Bird provided this “fair and honest” review in exchange for access to an online screener of “Isolation 119.” No financial considerations were involved.