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Review: Indie horror ‘Edge of Isolation’ brings verve to genre

Marem Hassler and Michael Marcel in the movie "Edge of Isolation."
(Indie Rights)

Ignore the nondescript title; writer-director Jeff Houkal’s backwoods horror film “Edge of Isolation” has personality and just enough splatter to satisfy gore-hounds. The plot’s a rehash of ’70s/’80s drive-in classics like “The Hills Have Eyes,” but this movie has its own odd energy and is effectively icky.

Michael Marcel and Marem Hassler costar as Lance and Kendra, spouses who have a car accident in the country, and end up recuperating with the Polifers: Ivan (Monte Markham) and Mary (Judi Barton), eccentric oldsters who lead a makeshift family of isolationist weirdos.

Lance and Kendra can tell something is off with the Polifers — like the way they won’t answer questions about how they survive, or talk much about the folks living in nearby camps. The visitors try to make the best of things, until they start realizing they’re not so much guests as prisoners.

Houkal plays some with the racial and class tensions underlying the relationship between the city slickers and their rural hosts, though “Edge of Isolation” isn’t really a political film. It’s more about how these cultured heroes go from being mildly weirded out to openly disgusted by the Polifers’ ways.

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The story takes some turns that’ll be predictable to anyone who’s seen other films in this “strangers in a strange land” horror subgenre. But a creeping gruesomeness compensates for the lack of originality. Spines will tingle. Stomachs will churn.

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‘Edge of Isolation’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood

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