Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 25/11/2021

SHEPHERD

Eric (Tom Hughes) is going through a crisis. His wife has died along with their unborn child, and his thoughts haunt him. He decides to take a job as a shepherd in a remote Scottish island with just his dog for company, and the ferry woman (Kate Dickie) provides an ominous introduction to his new career. As he attempts to get used to the solitude, his issues manifest even further.

Shepherd is a brooding, bleak, atmospheric nightmare that grips with ease. Writer/director Russell Owen has crafted a movie that draws you in from the start. Opening with a quote from Dante’s Inferno, it sets the prescient for what’s to come. Hughes is superb as the tormented lead, given an anxiety-inducing performance. A lot of the heavy lifting is provided by the sound design, which envelopes us with howling winds and creaking timber and the score by Callum Donaldson is wonderfully oppressive. Likewise, Richard Stoddard’s cinematography makes the beautiful but desolate landscape into a foreboding menace of its own.

As Eric descends further into madness, his guilt and fears manifest in various ways. There are perhaps a few too many dream sequences and startled awakenings, but there are still some genuine shocks to be had. Shepherd is a powerful film that won’t be for everyone but fans of tortured soul movies and great ghost stories will find plenty to enjoy. There will likely be comparisons with The Lighthouse, but Russell Owen stamps a unique mark on this and it deserves to find an appreciative fan base.

SHEPHERD is in UK cinemas on November 26th.