The major achievement of Rob Savage’s Host was not just in making a film during lockdown – but getting it seen within a month or so of production. It remains to be seen whether any of the many other movies made under such circumstances will be able to catch the zeitgeist wave quite so smartly. The greater story has moved on, so that films which might have been seen as timely and to the point in mid-2020 feel behind the curve when they finally appear. Isolation was made by nine small filmmaking teams observing rules of social distancing (remember them?) in various locales, with the self-contained chapters braided by a few threads that make a larger story of a pandemic not unlike COVID but which leads to a more apocalyptic outcome.
It’s something of a failing of horror filmmakers that they can conceive of Purge-style masked murderers, cannibalism, paranoid conspiracy theories and goons in HazMat suits, but missed out on plenty of things that came along later in 2020 and well into 2021 that became central to the appalling story (at least there are no toilet roll hoarding jokes here). There’s a sameyness of tone, probably inevitably, as a succession of short films feature lonely, alienated characters going quietly or loudly off their nut in fairly comfortable-looking surroundings.
The directors are Larry Fessenden (New York City: Fever – quietly effective), Andrew Kasch (San Diego: 5G – black comic), Dennie Gordon (Los Angeles: The Dread), Bobby Roe (Seattle: Pacific Northwest – a rare suspense/action bit), Adam Brown and Kyle I. Kelley (Chicago: Meat Hands), Alix Austin and Kier Siewert (London: It’s Inside – body horror), Zach Passero (El Paso: Gust), Alexandra Neary (Miami: Homebodies – found footage), and Christian Pasquariello (Berlin: Comfort Zone). Some segments click, others flit by without making much of an impression. However, the long-term issue – not just with this, but with many other projects – is that it has to compete not only with other movies but with our own experiences … because everyone now has an isolation story, even if we didn’t film it, and there’s a risk we’ll overload on them.