A24 is a studio that has become known for its artsy, psychological horror films (The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), It Comes at Night (2017), Hereditary (2018), Midsommar (2019), The Lighthouse (2019)), and I myself have loved/been deeply disturbed by most of them. So, I was very excited to see their newest film from Sweden, Lamb (2021), and sure enough this film made me feel very unsettled. However, the film was very different from what I expected it to be and while several moments made me uneasy, it didn’t have me squirming in my seat like I have become accustomed to for A24 branded horror. Overall, Lamb was a bit of a disappointment.
Lamb (2021) is a dark modern folktale about family and loss. A childless couple in Iceland (played by Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason) is tending to their pregnant sheep when one day they make an odd discovery—one of their sheep has given birth to a half-lamb, half-human girl. Desperately wanting a child of their own and rekindle their happiness, the couple separates the lamb-child from her mother and raises her as their own, naming her Ada. While raising this monstrous child, the couple must revisit wounds from the past and face the consequences of defying the will of nature.
This movie is weird. From watching the trailer, I knew it would be, but it exceeded the level of strange I was expecting. Obviously, the fact that there is a lamb-human child makes the movie odd, but the strangest part to me was actually the human couple and the actual tone of the film. The idea that two regular people would take in this creature and not question how it happened is bewildering—the way Rapace and Guðnason played their roles was great, but I felt their motivations, other than they want a child, to be off putting and nonsensical. With the tone, this is not the standard “horror” film. Watching this movie felt more like I was watching a slice of life family drama with a few off-putting shot to remind you that there is something sinister happening. When the big “reveal” happens, it felt both unfulfilling and predictably safe at the same time. While the film’s horror aspect was an extremely slow burn, the end felt rushed and quickly petered out.
Despite how strange I found this movie to be, there are a few aspects of the film I really enjoyed. Noomi Rapace delivers a fantastic performance that kept me captivated the entire film—the scenes with her and Ada’s sheep-mother were particularly great. Performances from Guðnason and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, who plays the uncle to lamb-child Ada, were great as well, and collectively, the three actors in this film truly sell that this extremely strange thing was actually happening. That’s another huge plus for this film, Lamb actually gets you to buy into and care about its strange sheep-girl. If a film like this can sell its wild premise, it has won half of its uphill battle. My biggest appreciation with this film goes to its cinematography. The landscapes and shots in this movie are gorgeous, and the setting adds an extra layer of uneasiness to the film’s atmosphere.
Overall, Lamb (2021) is more of a dark atmospheric family tale than a typical A24 horror film. There is probably an article out there that explains what the point of this film was and what the underlying meanings were, but I could not tell you. With very little horror in this horror film, I only mildly enjoyed the film. I did really like the cinematography and the lead performance given by Rapace, but the other aspects of the film just did not line up for me. I don’t know many people, personally, that would enjoy this film immensely. If you are looking for a more arthouse horror film for Halloween, tonight, I would recommend any of A24’s other films. Lamb is just too strange and off-genre for me to recommend.
Lamb (2021) is rated R for some bloody violent images and sexuality/nudity.
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