The chilling moments of “Isabelle” are what a woman who’s just had a stillbirth sees in her nightmares.
Larissa, capably played Amanda Crew of “The Age of Adaline” and TV’s “Silicon Valley,” slips out of her hospital bed and into the morgue to view the corpse.
She sees the baby in the nursery she and husband Matt (Adam Brody of TV’s “Curfew” and “StartUp”) prepared for it, hears its crying and confuses a stuffed teddy bear for it.
The experience would be traumatic for anyone, even without the ghoulish, wheel-chair bound neighbor (Zoë Belkin) constantly glowering at her from her upstairs window across the street.
Larissa can lash out at her husband with “YOU did this,” blame herself declaring “I should’ve stayed dead, not him!” and reject the not-that-helpful priest.
“I know all about Hell. I’m living it, right now!”
But we know it’s all about the pale title character, in that wheelchair, staring daggers at her new neighbor whose only provocation was moving in.
Producer (HBO’s “O.G.,” “The Pinkertons”) turned director Rob Heydon can’t conjure frights out of this generic, mass production script.
Interesting character wrinkles are introduced and abandoned. Larissa is a pianist who plans to give lessons. Matt is being doted over by a too attentive/too attractive intern at the office. Matt’s dad is a cop who is little help when his daughter-in-law starts seeing the ghostly Isabelle in their house, in their dead baby’s nursery.
The dialogue is a banal recycling of pregnant woman insecurities. She’s eight months pregnant and asking her husband, “”Are you sure about all this?” “Do you WANT this baby?”
But Crew makes Larissa’s collapse pretty convincing, from the terse and testy demand she makes of the hospital and her husband after the stillbirth.
“I. Want. To. See. My. SON!”
She won’t tell anybody the answer to this rhetorical question.
“I died. For a minute! Do you have any idea of what I saw?”
Everything around her is strictly boilerplate demonic possession junk.
The priest (Dayo Ade) won’t debunk “demonic possession.”
“I’ve seen…many things!”
Michael Miranda plays the non-clergy “explainer,” the guy who tells Matt what’s really going on and what’s going to happen if he doesn’t act.
It all feels like a story and characters and plot resolution that we’ve seen scads of times before.
But Crew, at least, makes her grieving mother interesting to watch, veering from rage to terror, helpless to pro-active.
It’s tough to play the only person in the viewer/protagonist equation who doesn’t see what’s coming a mile away.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Amanda Crew, Adam Brody, Zoë Belkin, Sheila McCarthy
Credits: Directed by Rob Heydon, script by Donald Martin. A Vertical release.
Running time: 1:21