Gruesome Reviews

[Exclusive] Scarred for Life – The ISOLATION Edition

For this month’s installment of Scarred for Life, we’re trying something a little different. The new lockdown-inspired anthology ISOLATION debuts this week on VOD from Gravitas Ventures, uniting the talents of 11 genre directors telling nine unique terror tales. To celebrate ISOLATION’s release, we enlisted 13 of the omnibus’ directors, screenwriters and producers to tell us about the crucial films that shaped their careers (for better or worse!) and led to their latest work.

To unite the movie’s myriad stories, ISOLATION creator Nathan Crooker cooked up a fictional future world based on the ongoing global pandemic. Each filmmaker adopted the same unifying framework, and to produce their shorts, only utilized the equipment and resources they had on hand when they entered into lockdown. Drawn from the creatives’ own traumatic horror flashbacks (see below) and the real-world terrors of COVID-19, ISOLATION spins a wealth of brand-new nightmares for home viewers. (Special thanks to Steve Beeman for his assistance on this article.)

Nathan Crooker, creator and producer

“I wasn’t allowed to watch horror movies as a young kid, but my mother had gotten sick of me nagging her to rent one, so she chose one for me. I was so annoyed that the box cover was dull—a man standing in front of a house, not creepy. After watching the film as a family, my mother asked if I thought it was scary. I said, ‘No!’ After she said good night and made her way to her room, I launched out of bed and got into bed with my sister. Both of us were deeply terrified from having just seen The Exorcist [1973]. It is the film that made me want to direct horror films. It still sends a chill down my spine. I have always vowed to one day make something just as frightening.”

James Gannon, producer

I’m sure it’s a common answer, but The Blair Witch Project [1999] scared the shit out of me. I was one of the people who happened to see a VHS version months before it was released in theaters, which was months before it was confirmed to be fiction. As far as I knew, what I was watching was real and changed my way of thinking about the world for a few days. Sounds in my house were amplified, shadows were more than shadows and being killed by a witch was a factual thing that happened. A few days after, while talking with a friend who had watched with me, we agreed it had to be fake…not because we thought it was, but because the alternative was too much to handle. I’m happy we ended up to be correct.”

Andrew Kasch, director (“5G”)

“Everyone has their gateway drug, the thing that scares the shit out of us so bad, we go chasing that high for the rest of our lives. For me, it was a blind viewing of Ridley Scott’s classic Alien [1979] at age 10. I didn’t sleep that night (or several nights after), and it took me a year to work up the nerve to watch the sequel. From that point on, I needed to know how the sausage was made, and both films started a lifelong interest in the craft behind motion pictures. Still learning every day.”

Cody Goodfellow, writer (“5G”)

“1980. I hoodwinked a friend of my mother’s into taking me to see a double feature of Maniac [1980] and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [1974] when I was 9. I thought I was prepared by the article in FANGORIA, but the ensuing carnage destroyed any last remaining traces of innocence I had left. Ruined me for slasher movies too, because it’s hard to buy into a relentless silent killing machine when you know serial killers are really slimy, barely functional creeps you’d pity if they weren’t wearing your dead aunt’s breasts as a vest.”

Bobby Roe, co-writer/director (“Pacific Northwest”)

“As a child, I was forbidden to see A Nightmare on Elm Street [1984]. Maybe because I was 5 years old (my mom sounds like the real monster in this situation if you ask me). Point being, I knew this and only this: Freddy kills you in your sleep. I was obsessed with the poster of Nancy in bed with the knife glove over her. Because all I had to go on was that great poster, I would not sleep on my back until I was 12 years old because I thought that’s how Freddy kills you. To this day, I sometimes roll over just in case. And I sure as hell don’t use a landline because I know that receiver will lick my face.”

Keir Siewert, writer/co-director (“It’s Inside”)

“Honestly, no joke, when I was 8, I came across Return of the Living Dead II [1988] (not even the first one!) while channel-flipping late night with a friend. He dared me to keep watching, and I made it about 30 minutes before I got too scared and begged him to change the channel. It was a lasting source of shame both because my friend thought I was so lame, but also because I watched it years later and realized it was terrible. Though it did eventually lead me to Part 1, which is my favorite zombie movie of all time.”

Alix Austin, co-director (“It’s Inside”)

“Mine’s a two-parter: I randomly owned Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy II [1996] on VHS when I was a kid, and for whatever reason, Slappy the Dummy’s face was burnt into my memory. I blame that experience for scaring me off horror basically until my 20s when Rob Reiner’s Misery [1990] turned it all around and brought me back to the horror fold.”

Adam Brown, co-writer/co-director (“Meat Hands”)

At the age of 6, Night of the Living Dead [1968] had a profound impact on me. My Aunt Edna, ‘the cool aunt,’ thought it would be a fun idea to show a VHS of the film to me and my older brother as she babysat us. The next morning, I sat quiet as my folks drove us back. We pulled up next to a cemetery at a red light. I blurted out from the back seat, ‘Jesus was a zombie, right?’”

Kyle I. Kelley, co-writer/co-director (“Meat Hands”)

“I didn’t really watch horror movies when I was growing up. I attribute that to being scarred by My Boyfriend’s Back [1993] when I was 6 or 7 years old. I don’t remember much except a shot from inside of a grave with dirt falling onto the camera. That night I thought about death for the first time. I remember my dad attempting to comfort me while I choked through sobs, incapable of articulating my newfound existential dread.”

Alexandrea Neary, writer/director (“Homebodies”)

The Shining [1980] is a film that changed my idea of the levels of filmmaking. I first saw it when I was about 14 and loved it. It wasn’t until I became interested in film that I watched it again a few years later and realized the layers and levels to each scene… sometimes each frame. It opened the idea to me of a film working on more levels than only the narrative being told. The symbolism reflected in color choices, hidden objects and overall tone to piece together a story within a story. This is true of all of Kubrick’s films.”

Christian Pasquariello, writer/director (“Comfort Zone”)

An American Werewolf in London [1981]—proud to have made it sneaking into the theater, 9 years old, scared like hell, when the howling echoed through the moors. The movie I fell in love with monsters.”

Zach Passero, writer/director (“Gust”)

“I caught Videodrome [1983] in the wee hours at a slumber party, broadcast on one of the latter letters of the cable box dial. I was way too young to comprehend what I was seeing—8 years old. The imagery, colors, lighting and textures burned themselves into my brain like a transmission from a different universe. I was processing the swelling television lips, bio-cassette tape being inserted into the chest and Debbie Harry long after that! I’m pretty sure that not only altered my brain chemistry, but made me wonder what other wild transmissions were out there to watch, and eventually, to make!”

Dennie Gordon, writer/director (“The Dread”)

Rosemary’s Baby [1968] terrified me for a long time after I first saw it. Roman Polanski was a master of fear with a simple implication of a monster next door and then a monster within. This film is what inspired me very much for ‘The Dread.’ Polanski only used 18mm and 25mm lenses, which added to the claustrophobic intensity of Rosemary’s entrapment, not unlike being stuck in our homes during COVID. It added to the psychology of her horror. And if you watch carefully, you will know you never actually see the monster, it is all implied, leaving it up to the audience to invent their most terrifying imagery.

“This is an important film, and if you haven’t seen it, do so. The craftsmanship is amazing, the storytelling even more so. And don’t forget to sleep with the lights on.”

You can read ISOLATION director Larry Fessenden’s previous Scarred for Life here:

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Tony Timpone