Dir/Wri: Russell Owen | UK Horror 103’
A little bit style over substance, Shepherd is an effective but rather overwrought third feature from Welsh writer/director Russell Owen, with Greta Scachi as the star turn and Tom Hughes as angst-ridden widow Eric Black.
Devastated after the mysterious death of his wife, who is pictured teasing him in menacing early flashbacks, Eric takes a job as a shepherd heading for the solitude of ramshackle house on a remote island with only his faithful Collie Baxter for company.
Front-loading the narrative with foreboding tropes and jump scares before really establishing Eric’s grievances with his wife makes it difficult for us to really feel for him or appreciate his troubled state of mind. So Owen keeps things ambiguous with a recurring motif of gloomy mountains and a roaring soundscape, an ominous tolling bell driving the narrative forward in this wind-beaten setting. The island is purportedly uninhabited but soon after arriving on a lighter steered by a gaunt boatsman, Eric spies a sinister hooded figure darting around a disused lighthouse, and discovers human remains in a stream.
Trauma from the past resurfaces in a scary vignette from Greta Scacchi as his widowed mother who has somehow tracked him down and was clearly not a fan of Rachel. But is she alive or dead, a nightmare or reality? Then Baxter goes missing and Eric’s state of mind down-spirals into a glowering night of the soul as the truth comes back to haunt him. MT
ON RELEASE FROM 26 November 2021