Thursday, May 05, 2022


Technically, Eric Black was hired to tend the sheep on a remote island, not the abandoned lighthouse. Still, at the first sight of its tower, we know he is in trouble, because lighthouses never portend good things in the movies. Black still bitterly grieves for his unfaithful wife, so he will be especially susceptible to all the bad business in store for him in Russell Owen’s Shepherd, which opens tomorrow in New York.

Black is so devastated, he can no longer hold down a conventional job, so he answers a classified for a shepherd position. “Fisher,” who ferries him to the island (sort of like Charon) is not exactly welcoming—and she will only get weirder. Black tells himself he does not mind the solitude, but any time he encounters heights of any extent, like the stairway to his bedroom, his vertigo kicks in. At least he has his dog for company, but loyal Baxter can tell something is very wrong.

mixes elements of the salty supernatural, especially films like Eggers’ The Lighthouse and Xavier Gens’ Cold Skin, with long-night of the soul movies in the Jacob’s Ladder tradition. Oftentimes, it doesn’t make perfect sense, but it is always pretty eerily effective. The incredibly lonely-looking locations (Wales and Scotland, including the Isle of Mull) are also a big asset.

Owen masterfully controls the foreboding mood and Kate Dickie is wildly disconcerting as Fisher. As Black, Tom Hughes could not possibly brood any harder, in what could be one of his best performances. Of course, Shuggie is money in the bank as trusty Baxter (but non-horror fans should be cautioned not to develop too strong an attachment, because we know he will mysteriously disappear at some point). Plus, the great Greta Scacchi creeps viewers out in a non-horror way, as Black extremely judgmental mother.

Owen and cinematographer Richard Stoddard crafted a great looking horror film. Visually, it is close to a color equivalent of Eggers’
Lighthouse. Just watching it makes you feel a damp chill. Hopefully, someone will eventually make a great film out Three Skeleton Key. Owen could be a strong candidate, based on this film. Highly recommended for fans of elevated horror, Shepherd opens tomorrow (5/6) in New York, at Cinema Village.