Religious Feminist Horror, The Other Lamb (2020) Brings Hit or Miss Cult Chills
Title: The Other Lamb
First Wide Release: April 3, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
Writer: C.S. McMullen
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Starring: Raffey Cassidy, Michiel Huisman, Mallory Adams
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A member of a cult comprised of all women begins doubting the man who leads them. After being ordered to vacate the land they have been living on, the group must journey to find a new home. Along the way, Selah (Raffey Cassidy) slowly comes to the revelation that something is deeply wrong about their way of life. She must think of a way to guide her sisters to safety even if it means destroying the world they have built together.
A hazy and restrained story, The Other Lamb is a different take on cults and the effects they have on their followers. Horror drama often hits different beats than more traditional horror films, but The Other Lamb makes it interesting by combining surreal and haunting imagery with a traditional hero’s journey and coming-of-age story structure. I like the change of pace that it offers, even if it doesn’t hit all the marks I normally enjoy. My biggest complaint is that the ending is very bizarrely structured. Personally, I wasn’t a fan. It didn’t feel fully earned at that moment, even though it was very much earned from a narrative perspective.
Well-acted and fully realized characters make the journey in The Other Lamb worth it. The audience, from Selah’s perspective, gets to watch her entire world crash and rebuild all at once. Her character arc is excellently done. It feels like she has grown and gained the confidence necessary to take charge of her life that she would not have otherwise had if she stayed the course. While I definitely am a fan of Cassidy’s portrayal of Selah, I am enamored by Mallory Adams’ take on the Cursed Woman. Her character, while a more supporting role, is fascinating and provides a lot of great context, both to the cult’s history and Selah’s story without coming across as an exposition factory.
Wonderfully lush in both beautiful shots and riveting orchestral music, The Other Lamb is a clearly artistic driven film. The cinematographers bring forth their A-game, capturing stunning portraits of the wilderness the group must trek through to reach their paradise. Contrary to the beautiful landscape shots, the team delivers some truly haunting scenes when Selah loses the lamb in the field. I also found myself really enjoying the score for this film. Truthfully, music is one of the last things I notice in a film, but The Other Lamb’s was incredibly energetic and lively.
The first two acts are paced wonderfully, soaked in slow-burn suspense and mystery until the third act comes along and diminishes much of the work set before it. I would hazard a guess that the climax reads more intense and earned than what ultimately plays out onscreen. It feels rushed, but still not without merit. Though dark and often downbeat, Szumowska ends with a hopeful message, which could be sinister to some bad-faith actors, that is both grim and gratifying. ing than frightening. Additionally, The Other Lamb could have used a trim of five to ten minutes. It really does drag at times. One positive technical aspect of The Other Lamb is its incredibly realistic effects. The dead animals really got to me, so well done!
The first two acts are paced wonderfully, soaked in slow-burn suspense and mystery until the third act comes along and diminishes much of the work set before it. I would hazard a guess that the climax reads more intense and earned than what ultimately plays out onscreen. It feels rushed, but still not without merit. Though dark and often downbeat, Szumowska ends with a hopeful message, which could be sinister to some bad faith actors, that is both grim and gratifying.
Touching on themes of misogyny, religion, and revenge in society, The Other Lamb tackles difficult subject matter in a unique way. I appreciate that director Malgorzata Szumowska gave this kind of story a fresher [and more needed] perspective. I have found that women directors handle the portrayal of sexual assault and other sexual related offenses in a way that holds true to the horror of the existence of such acts without glamorizing or exploiting them. Sexual control, violence, and grooming shape the cult. The religious symbolism and coming of age tropes intertwine putting Selah in a dilemma: continue with the cult and accept her place or carve a new path for herself. To me, it’s compelling, especially when comparisons are made against the current environment in the United States.
The Other Lamb is a tricky film for me to review. On one hand, it is an artistic treat with a lot of thought put into it, but on another the story wanders into some weird and experimental territory that did not really land with me. I found myself engaged throughout while still wanting more. It goes a different direction most cult films do not take but I am not sure if I would ever watch it again. The Other Lamb may not be for everyone, but everyone will find something to appreciate from this woman led and directed cult revenge meditation.
Overall Score? 5.5/10