SYNOPSIS: a young Scottish shepherd, following the death of his unfaithful wife, fights to maintain his own sanity when the past catches up with him.
It took more than a decade to bring Shepherd to the screen and that labour of love from director Russell Owen has resulted in a film that positively drips with atmosphere. It also paid dividends when it came to securing his cast too, with Tom Hughes, Katie Dickie and Golden Globe Nominee and Primetime Emmy winner, Greta Scacchi all coming on board. Well worth the wait, no?
Eric Black (Hughes) is looking for a new start after the death of his adulterous wife, and by way of escape, takes a job as a shepherd on a remote island along with his dog, Baxter. Once they reach their new, chilly and wind-swept home, Owen wastes no time in ratcheting up the already dark mood; Baxter won’t leave the boat, an ominous bell chimes and there’s a line on the ground that the ferrywoman (Dickie – putting in a sublime performance), won’t cross. “Something’s haunting you, Mr. Black. I can see it” she says.
One of the most impressive aspects of the film is its location shoot on the Isle of Mull, whose rugged and imposing landscape lends an otherworldly feel to proceedings; the island itself a character that beautifully illustrates the eerie isolation of this unnamed place.
We soon begin to see that the something haunting Eric is both the grief and guilt he feels over the loss of his wife – relayed in flashbacks – and a hooded supernatural entity. As his sanity starts to give way under the psychological and supernatural threat, the line between dreams and reality begins to blur, which sets the stage for some chillingly effective set pieces – the highlight of which involves Eric’s mother (Scacchi) as she deliberately cuts her hand with a knife before turning into something altogether more frightening.
The dread-filled ambience that Owen sustains throughout the film’s runtime sometimes comes close to be being derailed by an overwhelming score, but ultimately, this psychological horror delivers enough creeping dread, scares and fine performances to ensure that things stay on track.
SHEPHERD arrives on Blu Ray and digital platforms on 21 February, 2022