It’s not uncommon for folklore and fairytales to have violent and scary themes. Just look at the many Brothers Grimm stories and you find everything from kidnapping, to child abuse, to false imprisonment and the more.
So, for Johannsson to place the Icelandic tale LAMB in the horror genre didn’t take a leap of faith, and made the premise even more intriguing.
In “Lamb,” we find a farming couple, Maria and Ingvar (Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason), who appear to have a settled, quiet life tending their land and raising sheep. When one of their sheep delivers an unusual lamb, part animal and part human, the pair decide to keep and raise it as their own. What ensues is an awkward tale of nature vs. nurture, grief and loss, and actions vs. consequences.
My first thought on “Lamb” is that it is a gorgeously shot production. The initial scenes have barely any dialogue, a testament to the lead actors adeptness, while you are informed of the couple’s lifestyle. The audience learns how they spend their days in scenes with subdued colors coating a vast and isolated farmland.
You’re engaged in how they interact with each other and their animals, and you are front-row for a couple of deliveries as they assist their pregnant sheep.
But when the titular lamb arrives, it changes that dynamic and the couple becomes much more expressive while caring for this lamb-child they name Ada. Yet Ada’s presence in their home causes an unexpected reaction from the birth mother/ewe and the couple, especially Maria, are not attentive nor as concerned as they should – leading to disastrous events and an extremely tragic end…well, let me be honest, not too tragic for those who wanted a scary experience.
You see, with all its heightened build-up and dimly shot camerawork, “Lamb” is way more dark drama than horror. When there is finally an unexpected moment of violence in the final scene, and you’ve watched the film for the horror angle, you’re almost rooting for that something or anything similar to happen.
Around the 54-minute mark, Ingvar’s brother Petur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) asks the couple “What the f**k is this?” when he first encounters an upright, fully clothed Ada, and his question is how I spent much of the film – considering it is completely not what I was expecting from this horror tale.
At its best, the film is a unique character-driven story that will definitely sit with the viewer – for better or worse – after it ends. Because I’m always team animal – I’m the person whose top three Game of Thrones characters include Drogon the dragon and Ghost the direwolf – I enjoyed, and understood, the fact that the couple’s actions would eventually have extreme repercussions and that elevated my personal enjoyment of the story.
But ultimately, the story does overextend its welcome and the payoff takes too long to arrive. I rate it 2.5 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
LAMB opened in theaters on October 8.
Until next thought, Thomasena