Film Review: Isabelle

Director Robert Heydon’s thriller Isabelle offers a decent premise, yet lacks the requisite tension. The narrative allows for some interesting ideas, but none of these are capitalised on.

Matt and his pregnant wife Larissa move into their new home, shortly before Larissa is due to give birth. When tragedy strikes, Larissa becomes preoccupied by her neighbour, who watches her from the window…

Written by Donald Martin and directed by Robert Heydon, Isabelle has the aura of a psychological thriller, but is more at home in the supernatural horror category. The film transitions from one to the other, never really dwelling in the former.

Isabelle wastes no time in accelerating the narrative. A pivotal incident occurs very early on in film, paving the way for Larissa to descend into delusion. At eighty-one minutes, the film does not hang around. This short run time is an advantage; the film never drags.

The film introduces a number of themes fairly early on. Isabelle could have focused on the loss and trauma felt by Larissa and Matt, yet this is dismissed rather quickly. A creeping look at the effect of loss may have worked better than what Martin and Heydon go with. Instead, Matt jumps straight to the idea of possession, before rowing this back. The spectre of exorcism looms early on, but the filmmakers opt for a different tact.

With her precarious state of mind, Larissa’s paranoia is a focal point. Yet Heydon really does not opt for subtle; instead, jump scares are favoured over psychological exploration. The script does not really flesh out the characters sufficiently for more substantial examination. Some of the exposition is awkward, and the reliance on the disabled shut in feels rather tired. By the end of the Isabelle, any tension has evaporated.

Special effects are poor. The one particular effect is very jarring; smarter use of lighting could have had a more chilling effect. Adam Brody does his best with the material he is given, while Amanda Crew is not always convincing. Sheila McCarthy is suitably haunted as Ann.

Isabelle is by no means a slog, however the film fails to offer a engrossing story, or bring the thrills.

Isabelle is available on Sky Store, iTunes, and UK digital platforms from 30th September 2019.