Review: Creature Feature ISLAND ZERO Provides Eerie Atmosphere and Psychological Tension

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Director Josh Gerritsen delivers a fun, well-crafted creature feature in the independent offering Island Zero, a made-in-Maine movie that is destined to surprise viewers. Though elements of Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and 1950s monster movies are evident, the film builds a dread-filled world all its own.

On a remote island about 40 miles off the coast of Maine, a group of locals, seasonal employees, and a visiting author prepare to return to the mainland. Unfortunately, the ferry they are waiting for never arrives, part of a mysterious pattern in which local fishermen and boaters disappear, their vessels sometimes discovered with bloodstains. As the island residents and guests are further cut off from the outside world because of power outages, the mysterious situation escalates as horrendous deaths begin occurring on land, as well.

Working from a screenplay written by his mother Tess Gerritsen, helmer Josh Gerritsen has crafted a suspenseful monster movie that offers characters and relationships in which viewers can become fully invested. The situations, dialogue, and performances feel naturalistic, so that when victims are being stalked and the ugly truth behind the incidents comes to the forefront, viewers have plenty of reason to be invested in characters and whether or not they will see the occurrences through.

The sizable cast is solid throughout, including Adam Wade McLaughlin as marine biologist Sam, whose obsessive interest in following up on his late wife’s research is causing strife between him and his girlfriend Lucy (Terri Reeves), and Laila Robbins as Maggie, a doctor working temporarily on the island, who suppresses a tragic past that may actually help with the group’s survival. The supporting players give performances that range from spot-on to downright endearing.

Alisha Cratty’s makeup work and Eric Anderson’s special effects are commendable, and while body parts and the red stuff are on fine display in Island Zero, the film focuses more on psychological tension and an ever-building sense of dread. Mark Farney’s cinematography captures the gloomy greys of the isolated island and its surroundings marvelously, complementing the foreboding atmosphere.

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One area where monster movie fans might be disappointed is the lack of screen time for Island Zero’s beasties, but this reviewer feels that Josh Gerritsen and crew did a clever, admirable job of presenting them considering the film’s budget. What makes the attack scenes work is the investment of the actors, the dynamics between their characters, and a good story.

Island Zero is being released on VOD nationwide in the United States by Freestyle Releasing on May 15th. It’s a taut suspenser that creature-feature fans should find to be a fantastic discovery.