The Japanese horror boom of the late 90s re-introduced a concept that has been a staple of exploitation cinema since the 1950s: the double bill. After the astounding success of Ring, its sequels and numerous cash-ins were presented to the public in all-night thrill packages, which included the pairing of Ring 2 with The Spiral (Rasen, 1998 - Joji Iida), and Ring 0: Birthday (2000 - Norio Tsuruta) with Toshiyuki Mizutani's Isola. Outside Japan, this confused more than a few people, who took Rasen and Isola for official Ring sequels.
In the case of Isola, those people could be forgiven for the mix-up. Mizutani's film makes no claims at originality and takes the easy route instead, riding the horror wave without making the slightest effort to distinguish itself. Its characters and story structure are straight port-overs from Ring: again protagonist and antagonist are female, again the villainess is a corrupted innocent with supernatural powers, and again the heroine is aided, but not overshadowed, by a handsome-yet-regular love interest. This time around, the story revolves around a girl (played by Yu Kurosawa, granddaughter of Akira) whose murderous impulses stem from scientific experiments that have made her a schizophrenic telepath. Despite the new premise, anyone familiar with the Ring legacy should be able to follow this film with their eyes closed.
Even in its execution, Isola hasn't an ounce originality to vouch for it. The use of faked found footage echoes an infinitely more effective scene from Cure (1997) and of course Ring's videotape. Lucio Fulci's famed eyeball-skewering scene from Zombie 2 is recreated twice, while the ending is lifted straight from the finale of The Exorcist. If you're looking for anything surprising, fast-forward to the scene in which Susumu Terajima kills himself with a handful of meat skewers. In the background, dressed as a shabby bum, you will see none other than industry darling Takashi Miike in a very rare, and very short, cameo appearance.
To this overall package of disappointments you may add some showy but ineffective camerawork, lighting and framing, and what you end up with is a second-rate clone of what was already a less than first-rate film to begin with. No wonder Japanese horror cinema is on its last legs. After watching Isola I'm surprised it even has legs left to stand on.