In cartoons and comedies, we’ve grown accustomed to watching animals with human qualities and it doesn’t phase us one bit. Same goes for horror movies and it’s usually played for laughs or with cartoonish violence. That is surely not the vibe of Valdamir Johannson’s fable Lamb, which treats its baby sheep and real baby hybrid with total tonal sincerity. It’s not the first movie to do it (though not with that combo). It’s jarring nonetheless.
Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Guonason) are remote farmers who tend to their flock amidst the scenic mountains of Iceland. Their rather mundane days are given a jolt when the couple deliver a creature with anthropoid qualities.
The blended family scenario provides immediate joy to the parents who suffered a previous tragedy in their conception attempts. A disconcerting aspect of the screenplay is how normally their situation is treated. That’s until Ingvar’s deadbeat brother Pétur (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) drops in and his reaction mirrors the WTFery of the viewer.
While Maria and Ingvar stubbornly adhere to maintaining the new routine, Ada (and the dog) sense an outside presence lurking. Mom and Dad aren’t questioning how this mythical being came to be. The animal instincts of others are on alert.
A24 specializes in artsy horror flicks though I struggle to say Lamb is of that genre. It’s not scary. Eerie, including its picturesque though foreboding atmosphere, is a better word for it. This is prime example of either buying the concept or wanting to run for the hills. For a while, I was intrigued by its bizarre nature. Rapace’s committed performance (I’m tempted to say she really has the chops) helps.
When some of the mysteries are clarified in the third act, it felt a bit sudden and anticlimactic. The presentation is certainly unique but the overriding theme of grief is recognizable. That’s not to say there aren’t genuine surprises that occur. The shock value seems a little diluted after watching this sweater clad wooly oddity assisting with breakfast.
**1/2 (out of four)