Grief is a powerful force. Everyone knows it, and those who’ve experienced it, fear it. But never has the burden of its weight been illustrated with such heartbreak as it is in Lamb, a wild and woolly little folktale from A24, the wonderful little studio that brought us Midsommar and Hereditary.

"Though often sneaky and deceitful, its horror elements fester and boil into a deranged and gamey stew of shear terror"


For Icelandic farmers Maria (Noomi Rapace, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason, The Last Fishing Trip) the heavy burden of grief is somewhat managed by an isolated life of farming, tending to their modest herd of sheep, and keeping to themselves, lest the hardship of loss become too heavy a burden to bear. A small hillside graveyard hints at the recent loss of a child that has plunged the couple into an emotional tailspin.

Something magical happens, however, when Maria and Ingvar deliver a newborn lamb to a foaling ewe – it is born with human qualities. The couple names the lamb Ada and adopts it as their own child. We all know it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature, so the forthcoming horror should be no surprise to the gloating parents or the concerned audience

Co-writer/director Valdimar Jóhannsson knows that showing less of a cinematic beast creates more curiosity and suspense, so it’s not until the end of the film’s first act that we catch a fleeting glimpse of the creature’s entire being. Is that a baby’s body with a lamb’s head? Is that a cloven-hooved hand? We get enough to provoke our interest, but are left wanting more. That's always a good thing.Lamb

During the film’s second and third acts – each delineated with title cards, Jóhannsson smartly selects the scenes in which Ada will appear as the child, careful to balance between showing enough, but not too much. The result is a slow burn freakout that slowly and meticulously develops its own inward pressure and forward momentum as the child is slowly incorporated into the family’s daily routine.

Loosely classified as horror, Lamb is an A24 film through and through. It is extremely slow moving with DP Eli Arensen’s lens drinking in the barren Icelandic surroundings to drench the proceedings in a moody and robust sense of place. It is also an extremely odd film, even cringe-inducing at times as it has a wealth of insightful things to say about the dangers of allowing grief to consume our souls.

Like many other A24 films, Lamb is going to be a love it or hate it experience. Even though my viewing partner falls in the latter camp, she and I both agree that the experience is going to stick with us for a while. Admittedly lethargic and overly meticulous at times, it is working on a totally different plane than most other films. Even so, it hammers home its story of grief, illusion, trust, and betrayal with the power of a sledge hammer. Though often sneaky and deceitful, its horror elements fester and boil into a deranged yet gamey stew of shear terror. Just remember, Mother Nature is a bitch, and she always wins.

4/5 stars

Film Details


MPAA Rating: R for some bloody violent images and sexuality/nudity.
106 mins
: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Sjón; Valdimar Jóhannsson
Noomi Rapace; Hilmir Snær Guðnason; Björn Hlynur Haraldsson
: Horror | Mystery

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Release Date:
October 8, 2021
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Synopsis: A childless couple in rural Iceland make an alarming discovery one day in their sheep barn. They soon face the consequences of defying the will of nature, in this dark and atmospheric folktale, the striking debut feature from director Valdimar Jóhannsson.