Film Review: Shepherd

Running from grief after the mysterious death of his wife, Eric Black takes a job as a shepherd on a remote island. But all is not as it seems in this strange British horror

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On general release after its premiere at the London Film Festival, Shepherd (now from 26 Nov, selected cinemas) is a British film with heavy overtones of 2019’s supernatural and psychological horror The Lighthouse. Eric Black (Tom Hughes) is grief stricken following the death of his wayward wife and ends up on a remote island with just his dog and a flock of sheep for company. While coping with the isolation and harsh living conditions, he is plagued by past events that start to manifest as a vengeful supernatural force.

Heavy on atmosphere and light on clarity, this doom-laden piece of gothic terror has a clever habit of wrongfooting you every time you think you have an idea of what’s going on. But the instability of the narrative and the way Eric’s visions or whatever they are blend into what may or may not be reality mean there are times when the film simply becomes a series of unrelated images set against an incessant soundtrack of howling wind, rolling thunder and creaking floorboards.

Hughes is suitably gruff as Eric, if a little too well-groomed for a man apparently living such a harsh life in the wilds. But Kate Dickie steals the show as Fisher, the creepy boat captain who transports Eric to the island and who seems to hold the key to what he is doing there in the first place.

The sheer artifice of the piece with its knowingly odd construction means it’s hard to necessarily care what fate befalls Eric at the end of it all, but there are some delightfully eerie moments to be had and a couple of jump scares. Like The Lighthouse this film may well leave you with a lingering sense of unease when the credits roll.

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