This article contains spoilers for “Lamb” (2021)
CW: Mentions of incest and bestiality
So, you’re in the mood for a horror movie. You check the most recent films and stumble upon “Lamb” (2021) as a solid contender for your horror/drama needs. Rural Iceland, lambs, children — surely, these idyllic components would be ripe for corruption by a deliciously sinister plot.
I’ve never laughed so hard watching a movie by myself.
Though I was never scared, do not mistake me: I was highly entertained.
A couple with obvious marital troubles lives a heretofore monotonous life fleecing sheep and sowing seeds in the middle of nowhere, Iceland. Indeed, the story’s setting is a stunning landscape of snow-crested mountains and gently swaying grasses studded with yellow flowers, evoking major “The Sound of Music” imagery. But here, the hills are alive with the sound of bestiality, murder, light incest and a jealous case of “the other woman” being an actual sheep — and the plot keeps rolling downhill from there.
The plot is utterly absurd; this much is undeniable. Watching this movie requires a heavy suspension of disbelief, and then some. Without giving too much away, perhaps the most ridiculous emblem of the movie is its protagonist: Ada, the farm couple’s “kid,” is a lamb-hybrid child born in the barn and raised in the house, with laughably sparse open dialogue addressing how these circumstances came to be.
That is, how, exactly, the half-human, half-lamb child came into existence, and why the wife accepts Ada into her house, both of which are never explicitly dealt with throughout the movie. Far from amplifying the drama, shying away from the significant details of the story actually created a humorous effect: Honey, I did a sheep, and I’m not gonna bring it up over breakfast.
Instead, these emotionally disturbing events are left simmering under the surface, adding to the web of household tensions. This, at least, stands as proof of the director’s excellent capability in perfecting the art of dramatic buildup; one promise of the movie successfully delivered, where horror fails.
However, the implications of Ada’s existence are very much underlying the entirety of the film. We are certainly led to believe that Pétur, the farm husband, did the dirty to a sheep in the barn one foul night (because his marital sex life has run cold, so instead of fixing that, he turns to abusing animals).
Cut to Ada as a toddler, and we see the most inane rendition of a hybrid child to ever grace the big screen (yes, worse than “Sweet Tooth”). Ada’s head? Entirely sheep. Ada’s legs and torso? Decidedly human, save for hooves.
The effect of the realistic sheep animation is that of a puppet head glued onto a toddler’s body. However, the silliness of this image is magnified by the decision to dress Ada’s character in human clothes — now, we have a sheep puppet wearing skinny jeans and a The North Face puffer jacket. Ridiculous.
The Frankenstein lamb child concept could have been executed so much better. To me, deciding to keep Ada as an eternal baby-lamb for the duration of the movie would have been an acceptable alternative, leaving her body swathed in blankets and thus saving the director from having to seriously portray an admissible hybrid creation (which did not come to pass). In fact, Ada’s appearance (and the premises leading to her existence) made the film downright comical as opposed to horrific.
Perhaps even more tickling than Ada’s appearance are the actions of María, the farm wife who is forced to deal with not only the fact that her husband has a thing for sheep, but also, the living, half-human product of his animal abuse. Though the circumstances are already strange, the writing surpasses strange as we are led to believe María grows jealous of the female sheep that her husband banged — yes, I repeat, jealous of an abused animal. I had no choice but to laugh at this ludicrous implication as it played out across the storyline.
Though the movie in general is objectively bad, the only major bone I have to pick involves the categorization of “Lamb” as a horror film. When movies are labeled as such, I, as a viewer, demand to be scared. If anything, “Lamb” approaches the category of slow-burning psychological thriller, not anything remotely resembling horror.
Please, movie-genre-consensus-choosers, do not leave me hanging with such a seductive description of a film as a horror movie. It was such a sinister trailer, only to turn around and disappoint me waiting through the whole thing just for the flash of a furry something that is nowhere near as disturbing as the concept of a man screwing a ewe and the ewe then giving birth to a half-ewe.
Regardless of its miscategorization as a horror film — truly, rom-com would almost be more fitting — “Lamb” is an hour and 46 minutes of pure amusement that could definitely fill the void of boredom. If you seek a serious film, or one that is genuinely scary, search elsewhere. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the train wreck.
Rorye Jones PO ’23 is TSL’s TV and film columnist. If you see her on campus, please feel free to assail her with unsolicited TV and film recommendations (actually).