Building a cult is like world-building in science fiction or fantasy, there has to be a foundation, rules, beliefs, and limits. The leader or creator must be believable in order to have such a following. Sometimes there is an ease in how this group lives or why they find themselves where they are. This world-building is on a much smaller scale but no less important for those who inhabit it. But there is always an element of doubt. Whether it is in the system, the government, or the leader who oppresses his flock. There is always doubt and later rebellion, disrupting the status quo.
A group of women living in the wilderness, led by their enigmatic leader known as Shepard, live a somewhat peaceful existence but underneath there are darker truths that are covered up by talk of religion and rules. When one of the daughters, Selah, who seems to hold a special interest for Shepard begins to have dark twisted visions, she starts to see what is really going on around her and Shepard’s true nature.
A familiar sight of women wearing colour-coded clothes to signify their status within the group, made popular from The Handmaid’s Tale, they not only make it clear who everyone is but also segregates the women, making them rivals despite the fact that they are all in the same position, they are there to benefit the Shepard because he has done so much for them, apparently. As we aren’t given context to how the cult group was formed, we only gather how long they have all been in the woods together from the age of the wives and the daughters. As not all the daughters have mothers, the guess is that the mothers have passed away or possibly left. There are sinister undertones from the start, not including Selah’s dark visions, which can be observed and your own conclusions drawn, for instance, why are there only daughters? More questions arise throughout the film, some with answers later on but mostly, we are left to decide the answers ourselves as much as we left to interpret Selah’s visions which either foreshadow events warning her or give hints to the past. There is a lot of the story that is left to interpret which gives the film a sense of timelessness so could take place anywhere, anytime, at least until we glimpse other people for a few moments.
One of the rules is that only the Shepard can tell stories which is more than a controlling technique. This means all the stories are told from a male perspective and one man’s view this limiting and influencing the women around him. This makes for a strange and powerful moment when Selah breaks this rule and tells a terrifying and inspirational story to the rest of the daughters, a turning point in the group’s narrative as well that steers closer to the bloody end.
The Other Lamb is an atmospheric tale of innocence lost and gained while under the control and gaze of one man’s selfish acts. Hitting very hard on the cult story genre but with its breathtaking scenery and horrors implied, not always shown, the film walks a line between horror and low key thriller but no matter what way you interpret the story, the images seen will stay with you after the credits roll.
Dir: Małgorzata Szumowska
Prd: David Lancaster, Stephanie Wilcox, Aoife O’Sullivan, Tristan Orpen Lynch, Maire Gade Denessen
Scr: C.S McMullen
Cast: Raffey Cassidy, Michiel Huisman, Denise Gough
DoP: Michal Englert
Music: Pawel Mykietyn
Country: USA, Ireland, Belgium
Runtime: 97 minutes
The Other Lamb will be released on DVD & Blu-ray on 26th October