‘Lamb’ review: An adorably offbeat horror film

A review of the 2021 horror film “Lamb” from director Valdimar Jóhannsson and A24 studios.

Throughout the runtime of the new A24 film “Lamb,” there is a near-constant feeling of frigidness. The film embodies its location of rural Iceland, with only three human characters appearing on screen. The sparseness of the land and characters leave many scenes so bare, the only thing to fill them is the frosty weather for which Iceland is known. 

The only warmth present within “Lamb” comes from the family upon which the film is centered. The family is made up of Maria, Ingvar, and Ada, a half-man half-lamb hybrid they decide to take in and raise on their isolated farm. These three show an endearing love and affection for one another, making it easier to bond with them each as characters. Ada in particular wins over viewers by combining the innocence of a baby lamb with the attachment humans feel towards babies. The plot of “Lamb” is kicked off by the discovery of Ada, who is given intentionally vague origins. The farming couple treats her like one of their own, giving her a crib within an arm’s reach of their bed. However, “Lamb” is a horror movie, and not everything on the family farm is as quaint as presented. 

The setting of lamb seems somewhat antithetical to the horror genre, as most of the scenery features either vast plains of grass, or distant green mountains. First time director Valdimar Jóhannsson, and cinematographer Eli Arenson defy this by being extremely intentful with their shooting style. The film is broken up into three parts, each with its own distinct shooting style. The shooting styles are also broken up by the emotion of the scene, with distinct styles for happy, peaceful, sad or scary moments. The scenes that stand out the most are the long-take POV shots, all from the perspective of some entity or monster that is never shown. These shots are sprinkled throughout the movie, always providing a great deal of horror, and always confirming the presence of this “entity.” 

The actors in “Lamb” are tasked with an unusually heavy burden, being that there are only three of them. Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason play the previously mentioned Maria and Ingvar, with Jörn Hlynur Haraldsson rounding out the cast as Petur, the nomadic brother of Ingvar, who doesn’t appear until over halfway through the film. Each of them do quite well, Rapace standing out from the three. One of the best elements of the performances is how well they each interact with the computer-generated Ada, as they all form tender bonds with her during the film.

The effects for the character of Ada deserve high praise, not once looking fake throughout the entire film. Ada is mostly human, with her only lamb body parts being her upper body on the right, and her head. The effects team blends this seamlessly, with Ada appearing to have photo-realistic human and lamb body parts.

Lamb could have a chance at being nominated for best foreign film at the 2022 Oscars, and has already set a record for the highest grossing opening week by an Icelandic film. It seems likely to become a future cult classic, especially being an A24 horror film, although it may not be for all horror fans, being as off-beat as it is; but that doesn’t stop it from being an entertaining and unique film.