Paranoia befalls a small island community located forty miles off the mainland of Maine as something starts killing off the marine life and townsfolks. Nothing is for certain as to what is happening, but fear is running rampant and times are becoming desperate. So is the premise of Island Zero. Directed by Josh Gerristen, in his film debut, and written by his mother, Tess Gerristen. The chiller offers suspense by not revealing who or what is causing havoc on the island, acutely escalating the tension and terror. And while there is violence featured, most of it happens off screen, in appropriate Hitchcockian fashion, making the feature all the more intense as it ratchets up the psychological tension.
As the film starts, a marine biologist named Sam (Adam Wade McLaughlin) suspects that something suspicious is happening on the island. He made a case study four years prior following evidence that marine life was disappearing at an alarming rate in coastal regions of the northern portion of the United States. His girlfriend, Lucy (Terri Reeves) is ready to leave Maine to return to her home in Boston, while Sam’s daughter Ellie (Elaine Landry, making her screen debut) is more focused on her Christmas presents.
Rounding out the ensemble, we also have a novelist named Titus (Matthew Wilkas), who has been staying on the island for a while gathering inspiration and local waitress Jessie (Joanna Clarke). We also have an elderly couple (Anabel Graetz and Richard Sewell) who continually quarrel on how hot it is in their home and a local restaurant worker named Val (Stephanie Atkinson), who is trying to understand why the local ferry has not returned as scheduled.
Soon enough, people are attacked and then mysteriously start to vanish from the island. The evidence found is either a great deal of blood, or body parts found on the beach. Sam enlists the help in a local doctor Maggie (Laila Robins) for help in examining the found body parts and homes that shows definite signs of a struggle. People are killed near the water and even in their homes while their bodies are never found. Without getting into spoiler terrain, worth mentioning is the gripping tension clear and present on behalf of Gerristen, marking an impressive first show. Equally, tender moments of reflections as the characters begin to piece together just what is happening mark a tremendous sense of grounding to Island Zero. Tense, emotional, and at times quite funny, Island Zero is a good mix of everything.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
Island Zero, without a doubt makes use of horror and suspense without pushing too hard in order to force anything too quickly or cheaply. What we are given is something unique, nearly reminiscent in pace and mood to a strong Stephen King novel. With plenty of intense situations, a blood inducing action, Island Zero stands out and rises above mere genre convention. As a plus, the strong cast, grounded writing and a piercing score contribute mightily in boosting the thrills and chills.