J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Island Zero: These Aren’t Boating Accidents


If you live on a Maine island, follow the Mormons’ advice and always have at least six months of food on-hand. As everyone should know by now from Stephen King, it sure is easy for those little islets to get cut off from the mainland. This time it is bestselling author Tess Gerritsen who is picking off islanders one-by-one in her screenplay for her son Josh Gerritsen’s Island Zero (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

These used to be rich waters for fish and crustaceans, but nobody has caught anything for weeks. That is because Sam the high-strung marine biologist poisoned the waters to prove his wild-eyed theory. Okay, actually there is some kind of previously undiscovered primordial super-predator species swarming out there. Really, that sounds more believable?

In any event, the aqua-things have severed all contact with the island, so they can do to the inhabitants what they did to the fishery waters. It is particularly personal for Sam. His late wife was killed by these creatures while tracking their movements for her research. Sam’s young daughter and sort of ex-girlfriend are also trapped on the island, so there’s that too. They have no authority figure to speak of, accept Dr. Maggie (island folk are informal), a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, who is covering at the local clinic until they can recruit a full-time Joel Fleischman.

Zero looks like it was produced on a budget of fifty dollars and a couple of Dunkin Donuts gift cards, but the first half is oddly entertaining in a throwback kind of way. Unfortunately, it squanders that good will in a stupid second half. Naturally, the military starts to cast an evil shadow over the proceedings, because their motives are always suspect. Honestly, the armed forces can never win in a movie like this. Either they are callously sacrificing human life for the sake of some sort of technology with dubious military applications or they are recklessly trying to destroy a sentient species we could learn so much from. It is more the former in this case.

For the sake of its anti-military bias, Zero completely throws logic out the window. Seriously, if they wanted to conduct business with the sea monkeys from Hell, why didn’t they evacuate the island first? They could have easily generated a cover story—they’re the military. Instead, they leave a few dozen islanders around to gum up the works.

Still, it is cool to see a character actor like Laila Robbins take the de facto lead. She is credibly cool, collected, and battle-hardened as Dr, Maggie. The rest of the ensemble is rather hit-or-miss, but she can carry them for about forty-five minutes or so.

Josh Gerritsen actually does a nice job at times conveying the mounting fear and claustrophobia of the islanders in their state of siege, but this is nothing like The Thing (either of them, the real ones). Unfortunately, the film always slavishly does what we expect it to do, even when it doesn’t make much sense. Frustratingly, we just can’t recommend Zero Island when it launches today on VOD platforms, including iTunes.

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