SHEPHERD (2021) – Don’t waste your time with this bewildering slow burner


Rating: ⭐

Atmosphere and creepy moments alone does not make a good horror movie. This is never more evident than in this British tale of a recent widower who strangely chose to bury his sorrows and haunting visions of his deceased wife, by taking up a job as a shepherd in an isolated island that barely has any working facilities to live in. This toxic and illogical choice alone makes the whole premise seem improbable.

British actor Tom Hughes is not a familiar face or name in the film industry although he has been the face of Burberry’s Summer collection. He has the looks to match the atmospheric dread that hangs over the entire movie and basically has the unfortunate task of carrying the entire movie practically on his own, save for the companionship of his dog. To be fair, Tom Hughes does a decent job in the process. His main hindrance is a coherent story to match. Nothing much makes sense in the entire movie and the worst thing about it is that most of it is left unexplained and presumably to the imagination of the audience!

The locale of a quiet isolated island with a mysterious lighthouse, and a house that is practically falling apart, conjures comparisons with such movies as The Witch and Lighthouse. But where these movies have a focus on being stories about a witch and lunacy, Shepherd here never really gets down to being either. Is the Tom Hughes character mad? Or is he in fact dead? Is the entire movie made up of just his hallucinations? Is there really an island?

These ideas are hinted at but never supported. The added elements of witchcraft with messages in a notebook left in the house, and the appearance of slaughtered sheep are never explained and hence, made to feel like they were included just to provide some shock elements. The same can be said of the unexplained appearances of figure in dark flowing drapes and what’s in the lighthouse. All left unexplained in any satisfactory manner. For me, any movie that leaves its audience short changed without proper closure and explanation, failed in its most basic goal. It makes the whole ritual of watching a movie feel like a complete waste of time.

Shepherd is the brainchild of writer director Russell Owen. I would say that he has some potential being greatness as evident by the beautiful sceneries and atmospheric gloominess he evokes. But minus a coherent plot or likeable characters, his efforts here amounts to little that you would want to spend precious time with. Horror fans would be disappointed, arthouse fans would brushed it off as crass. Perhaps next time Russell ….

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