With both films appearing in the Cult strand of the London Film Festival, Shepherd would make for an interesting double bill with Lamb. However titular connections aside, this horror is another beast entirely. A classic ghost story that is The Lighthouse meets The Woman In Black.
Running from grief after the mysterious death of his wife, Eric Black answers an advert in the paper for the job of a shepherd. He finds himself trapped alone with his thoughts on a majestic, weather-beaten island with a dark and ominous secret. What began as a chance to start over becomes a race to save his sanity and his life.
It is all well wanting a fresh start. However in order to leave the past truly behind, one must be careful what baggage they bring with them.
After being dropped off on the island by Kate Dickie’s unsettling and creepy Fisher (alarm bells should have already been ringing), Eric begins to experience haunting visions and the sense that he is not alone on the island. Is it a simple case of cabin fever or is there something more sinister at hand. There to be the shepherd but is he just another sheep? Being manipulated and toyed with by an unseen force.
It is a well crafted tale of terror. The cinematography is stunning and the sound design and score help to create an ever-increasing sense of isolation, disorientation and dread. Writer-director Russell Owen clearly knows how to use the tools in his arsenal to build mood and atmosphere.
The trouble is that like the character being plagued by the same haunting images every night, the film feels eerily familiar. The central plot and character’s backstory is nothing new or groundbreaking to fans of the genre. So despite the drip feed of clues, audiences may find themselves a few steps further down the clear path ahead. So what could have been a fresh, inventive take on the genre instead feels like a ghost story you listen to round the campfire. A story where you go “I think I’ve heard this one before”.
Shepherd is in cinemas from November 12th.
Director: Russell Owen
Stars: Tom Hughes, Kate Dickie, Gaia Weiss, Gretta Scacchi
Runtime: 103 minutes