Busan Film Review: ‘Isabelle’

When men talk fondly about “the girl next door,” they never mean someone like Isabelle, who turns that all-American fantasy into a real nightmare for the sweet middle-class couple who move next door to a Satanic family in Rob Heydon’s run-of-the-mill chiller. Named after the creepy neighbors’ godforsaken daughter, “Isabelle” is curiously old-fashioned and not at all original enough to distinguish itself in American release. In the context of its world premiere at South Korea’s Busan Film Festival, however, this by-the-numbers midnight movie could work well for export to countries that put stock in ghosts and possession — a context in which the American cast and setting might actually serve as novelties.

Matt (Adam Scott) is a successful lawyer and doting husband whose new job brings him and pregnant wife Larissa (Amanda Crew) to Sarasota Springs. They are the kind of perfect-looking couple routinely depicted in real estate advertisements, although the view looks slightly different from the upstairs window of the house next door, where 24-year-old Isabelle (Zoë Belkin) can be seen lurking at all hours. From her perch, where she sits scowling in her wheelchair, red eyes glowing with a jealous rage it will take the entire movie to fully comprehend, Isabelle can see directly into Matt and Larissa’s bedroom — a vantage that’s not only voyeuristic but also revealing of just how much they have to lose.