Review: Savage Lamb Horror Movie Will Make Sheep For Your Parenting Anxieties

Hilmir Snær Guðnason and Noomi Rapace in a scene from Lamb.

Courtesy of A24

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  • Lamb
  • Realized by Valdimar johannsson
  • Written by Valdimar Johannsson and Sjon
  • Featuring Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason and a lamb
  • Classification R; 106 minutes
  • Available in theaters from October 8

In honor of Netflix’s worldwide success Squid game, let’s play Lamb Game. As in: describe new Icelandic horror movie Lamb without spoiling what new icelandic horror movie Lamb is actually on.

It’s delicate. I guess if you guess, “Uh, something to do with a lamb…?” You would be right. Partially. But there is also a line of dialogue hidden in Lamb‘s script that specifically reaches the bones and marrow of the film. It is pronounced when Maria (Noomi Rapace), a silent, childless farmer, watches TV and asks her equally low-key husband Ingvar (Hilmir Saer Gudnason) to repeat what a character just said on screen : “Something about folk tales, I think. ”

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Lamb is something like a folk tale, Icelandic: dark, mysterious, with a creeping sense of dread and a moral lesson that may or may not work, depending on your tolerance for CGI surprises.

With its release this weekend on A24, Lamb joins a long line of pretty indie-cool horrors from the American distributor. And when the movie works – like its first scenes capturing disturbed barnyard behavior, as well as passages documenting Maria and Ingvar’s daily routines – director Valdimar Johannsson’s debut crawls under your skin before sneaking into your heart. But then … Something … happens, and either you join Lambis parental vanity-is-hell or you don’t.

There are a few things that help ease the film’s scandal, including Rapace and Saer Gudnason’s abilities to sink into their loving and perhaps overly engaged family unit. And Eli Arenson’s cinematography through the fog makes the couple’s rural farm feel quite uneasy. But Johannsson’s film also entrusts its audiences with caring for a character who comes to life through truly wobbly puppets and visuals – a combination so aesthetically fragile that the result may well be intentionally wrong. But if Johannsson was aiming to assert, perhaps, the reality that parents want to see versus the reality presented to them, then the execution is blurred.

And then there’s the ending, which comes as a parody of an A24 horror movie. Following Defense that, say, the goat that runs wild in The witch. I’m not going to make the obvious joke and say it’s baaad. But his sheep shivers are also a sheep to tell.

In the interest of consistency across all critical critics, The Globe has removed its star rating system in film and theater to align with the coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, Works of Excellence will be noted with a Critics’ Choice designation throughout the cover.

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