Lamb Review: Boring horror that puts you to sleep
A24 has been a pivotal force in bringing artsy, atmospheric horror to more mainstream settings, but it’s latest offering, Vladimir Johannsson’s feature directorial debut, doesn’t represent the strongest elements of their horror brand.
Lamb has been the talk of the town since it was picked up by A24 and got a lot of festival buzz and there are aspects to it that fit into A24’s vision for horror. It’s certainly atmospheric with the film’s Icelandic farm setting where we find struggling, childless couple Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Guonason) tending to their livestock. The way their farm is surrounded by these towering mountains, filled with mist in the night, and is completely separated from civilization is almost dreamlike. As the film explores more and more of their secluded farm, you can’t help but feel like you’re walking around another world entirely, yet it’s not and the way that the film stays grounded through its initial impressions of Maria and Ingvar’s relationship sets an interesting tone.
The spark between Maria and Ingvar isn’t as strong anymore and there’s obviously something that’s keeping them from expanding their family. Honestly, they look like they’re stuck in a rut maintaining their farm and taking care of the many sheep they own. However, their lives are forever changed after they assist one of their sheep giving birth and find that its offspring is no ordinary lamb. Rather, it’s a lamb/human hybrid with a lamb head and a hoof for an arm while the rest of it resembles a human. Although slightly perplexed at first, the two quickly accept the newborn as their own and lovingly name her Ada. As time passes and Ingvar’s brother Petur (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) comes to the farm, Ada’s presence attracts a foreboding intruder and brings out the darker parts of Ingvar and Maria’s determination to protect Ada and keep her in their care.
Ada is easily the most intriguing aspect of Lamb as the sheer visual of her is both creepy and adorable. Once the film finally reveals the full look of Ada, it’s impossible not to become mesmerized by how she looks. Johannsson’s background is actually in visual effects as he’s done work on films like Rouge One and The Tomorrow War, and his direction definitely makes Ada feel real and it’s a big part of why she’s a big visual draw – other than the obvious. Even as you feel slightly scared or put off by Ada, she still evokes this sense of innocence and harmlessness that makes you oddly see her as any other child.
Petur’s arrival also adds an interesting perspective to the situation as his subtle horror and disbelief of Ada gives viewers someone to relate to. For most of his initial arrival, you’re left wondering how things will end with him given that he has a flirtatious past with Maria and seemingly could rip Ada from Ingvar and Maria’s hands. His inclusion adds another great layer of suspense. However, the mysteries of Ada and Petur don’t do enough to make this film interesting as Lamb is one of the most boring, uneventful slogs I’ve seen in recent time.
Slow-burn horror can work if there’s something engaging stringing you along, but Ada’s striking visual oddities can’t hold you forever and there’s literally nothing that happens throughout the movie. The film opens on such an excellently suspenseful note of a first-person perspective of a mysterious creature impregnating one of the sheep in the middle of the night, but this isn’t maintained amongst the mundane viewing experience of watching Ingvar and Maria parent. Outside of a few moments, absolutely nothing interesting happens and watching Ingvar and Maria just parent Ada just becomes drab since there’s no real change in their characters. At one point, I just sat there desperately begging for the credits to role so that it could just be over, but even when that came, the lack of resolution left me annoyingly underwhelmed.
It’s even more baffling how Lamb could be considered a horror movie because it’s devoid of scares or consistent suspense. Aside from Maria taking out Ada’s sheep mother and the creature from the opening coming to reclaim their kin, there’s absolutely no sense of direction or suspense being built to add a pulse to this movie. Even as things start to get interesting with the awesome looking adult sheep/human hybrid coming to take Ada, the film cuts itself short and doesn’t explore this entity or Maria trying to get Ada back. Movies where nothing happens are bad. Horror movies where nothing happens are even worse and Lamb takes the cake with its tediously boring story and unbearably sluggish pace.
The only thing nightmarish about Lamb is having to endure its tortuously boring story and even though it has some intriguing visual elements, even those who adore some slow-burn A24 horror experiences will likely find Lamb to be lacking anything worthwhile.