Review by Sean Boelman
From director Malgorzata Szumowska comes The Other Lamb, an eerie and atmospheric new horror-thriller set in the world of religious cults. Thanks to gorgeous visuals, strong performances, and a thoughtful script from C.S. McMullen, this ends up being one of the first can’t-miss horror films of the year.
The movie tells the story of a young woman in an all-female cult led by a male “Shepherd” as she begins to question the group’s ideology and its leader’s intentions. As is the case with many films about cults, McMullen’s script is so effective because it plays into the audience’s fascination with the unknown to create a mysterious and thrilling story.
Arguably the strongest aspect of McMullen’s script is its world-building. By throwing the audience into the movie’s world with little to no context, it is up to the viewer to acclimate themselves to the mythology. There isn’t a new initiate as the protagonist, but instead, the viewer is left as an outsider to this world.
Regardless, the film does a very good job of creating sympathy for the characters. The protagonist’s arc is a relatively common one for the genre — disillusionment with the traditional ways of the group causes a rift with the elders of the group — but it is a compelling one nonetheless, and McMullen and Szumowska’s approach is insightful enough for the movie to stand out.
The film explores the idea of religion, and while it does so in a very extreme sense, the movie still feels very relevant. McMullen’s particular focus is the indoctrination of youth into religion, which is a discussion that has largely been avoided by most forms of popular media, but is something that needs to be discussed.
Raffey Cassidy (Vox Lux) plays the lead in the film and does an excellent job of bringing the character to life. Although it isn’t quite her strongest work, that just goes to show the tremendous talent that she has. Michiel Huisman also gives a great performance as the cult’s charismatic but menacing leader.
That said, the single most impressive part of the movie is its beautiful and hypnotic visuals. Although there are a few sequences in which it does start to feel like Szumowska is going a bit overboard, most of the film is very deliberate and nightmarish. It is the type of aesthetically-driven and highly-stylized art horror that fans have come to expect of the genre.
The Other Lamb takes a lot of risks thematically and stylistically, and the result is an immensely satisfying horror-thriller. Although it isn’t as traditionally exciting as general audiences will want, the niche audience to which it appeals is sure to love it.
The Other Lamb hits VOD on April 3.