Lamb is A24's cult horror hit in the making

Watch the new trailer for the studio's latest: an Icelandic psycho-scary with a mutant sheep at its centre.

by Douglas Greenwood
28 July 2021, 11:45am

Go to Sheep, Black Spark Film & TV, Madants, Film i Vast, Chimney, Rabbit Hole, Helgi Jóhannsson.

You know when people who've been in war zones and attended American Black Friday sales IRL say they've “seen some shit”? Well much the same could be said for the majority of stuff that plays at film festivals. At places like Cannes Film Festival, you're likely to see everything from two-and-a-half-hour-long movies with unsimulated sex in 3D (thanks Gaspar Noé) to voguers tripping on LSD (thanks, also, to Gaspar Noé). There is also, once in a blue moon, something like Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Lamb: an Icelandic horror movie — that's not really a horror movie — about a couple beguiled and low-key terrorised by the presence of a mutant sheep on their farm. It's so wild that A24, who've backed horror masterworks like Ari Aster's Hereditary in the past, have already snagged it for its US release, and have dropped the the trailer for it too 

Here is the briefest rundown that we can offer up without spoiling the movie, which relies on knowing very little and just letting yourself be carried away in its deranged story.

María and Ingvar are a couple enjoying a quaint existence on a sheep farm nestled somewhere in the valleys of Iceland; the kind of place where if you were to scream for help, no one would hear you. Their relationship seems stable, maybe a little frosty, but it thaws upon the miracle arrival of a new baby lamb, who isn't carted into the pen with the rest of its wooly mates but instead gets the special treatment: wrapped in a blanket and given a cot to sleep in, right next to María and Ingvar's bed.

a still from Valdimar Johansson's Lamb
Go to Sheep, Black Spark Film & TV, Madants, Film i Vast, Chimney, Rabbit Hole, Helgi Jóhannsson.

Why? Well, the film's first chapter makes sure we never find out exactly why they're drawn to this miraculous creature. It's hidden from view, seen only from the neck up, and otherwise alluded to off-camera. The second chapter gives us our best look at it, leading us to wonder why the movie wasn't called “What in the Skyr fucking yoghurt is the deal with that lamb?!” rather than, you know, just Lamb.

To say more about the plot would be to spoil so much of Lamb's unhinged, culty fun — but it's interesting because there's no real genre to attach to it. Is it a drama? Well, no, because there's a weird sheep at its centre that acts like the distracting piece of food on an otherwise melancholic movie's face. So is it a comedy? Maybe, but that doesn't explain why we're shitting ourselves to see exactly what this animal really looks like, and subsequently shaken by its presence. Horror, then? Well, we're scared, but also can't stop laughing at the strange sheep, or feeling bad for the couple who seem so attached to it, to the point where they've named the creature after their recently deceased daughter. 

All in all, lots to think about, but Valdimar Jóhannsson's debut feature is the kind of movie that feels destined to go on and become a part of cult horror history: skirting definition for the fun it; arrestingly shot in the ghostly vistas of a rural country; and written with the kind of fearless energy most first timers are too terrified to tackle. 

It pays off though. For those of you who like monster movies and moving studies of grief, the movie version of a Venn diagram you never knew you needed has just been created, and it's a bleak and beautiful star-maker of a thing. Watch the trailer below, and seek it out as soon as you can. 

Lamb premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2021, and will be released by A24 in the US on 8 October and MUBI in the UK and Ireland later in the year.

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Cannes Film Festival