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Irish horror finds down-on-his-luck farmer Dan (John Lynch) allowing John (Marcel Iureș), a scientist from a bio-corporation, to do genetic experiments on his cows for money. It is not only supposed to accelerate their growth, but increase fertility at an earlier age. The experiment goes awry and a calf is not only born with genetic defects, but pregnant with strange little creatures. The pretty local vet Orla (The Babadook’s Essie Davis), who is assisting John, tries to destroy them all, but one gets away and the parasitic creature now seeks a host to gestate and reproduce. It’s bite is also infectious making it even more dangerous. This puts Dan, Orla, two drifters camped out near Dan’s property (Sean Harris and Ruth Negga) and John in deep trouble as they try to stop it. Can they escape Dan’s isolated farm alive…should they?

Written and directed by Billy O’Brien, this is an effective and entertaining horror despite some familiar plot elements. We have seen stories about genetic experiments gone wrong, often, as we have ones about mutations that can reproduce and infect others very quickly. O’Brien uses these tropes well in creating atmosphere and tension as our small group of people try to stop the little bugger from getting off the farm or reproducing. His script gives us realistic characters throw into a nightmarish situation and he also plays around with our expectations as to who will survive…if any…and who is monster fodder. This keeps us off balance and unnerved, as on that level he doesn’t deliver what’s expected. This adds to the tension and if O’Brien is not keeping us in suspense as to where our beastie is and what it’s up to, he’s delivering some generous blood and gore and a vey unusual looking creature. It all makes for a solid little horror that may not be the most original in terms of story, but has a director who uses the familiar elements very well and to good effect.

One of the reasons the film also works is that we do like most of the characters and the actors help. John Lynch gives us a simple farmer in Dan, who makes a bad decision to save his farm and now regrets it greatly. He conveys that regret and the desire to make things right and stop the monster, very well. Nine years before she delivered a stunning performance in The Babadook, Essie Davis gives us a likable women in Orla, who has also has made a bad decision in helping the genetics firm mess with Dan’s cows. Like Dan, she is horrified at the result and yearns to see it stopped before it spreads. Marcel Iureș gives us a scientist, who while is basically the human villain of the piece, at first doesn’t seem so bad. He has us fooled for a while, then delivers a solid bad guy scientist when his true colors come through. As the drifters, Negga and Harris make a likable duo of not so innocents who get drawn into a nightmare, but valiantly try to help. A small but effective cast.

Not a perfect flick or overly original, but a solidly entertaining one from Billy O’Brien. It has plot elements we’ve seen before, but uses them well and effectively. The director creates some nice mood, atmosphere and tension and doesn’t skimp on the gore or critters either. The FX are well rendered, without any CGI and the cast all do good work with their respective characters, which helps make them believable and identifiable. A solid horror from Irish filmmaker O’Brien.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cows who don’t remember being asked about participating in genetic experiments.

 isolation rating