The Reel Review
A man haunted by the recent death of his pregnant wife seeks out a job as a shepherd on a very remote island in the Scottish Highlands. There, he soon starts experiencing disturbing supernatural occurrences, in this horror/mystery starring Tom Hughes (The English), Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones, Prometheus) and Greta Scacchi (Emma, Shattered).
Location, location, location. Yes, this overwhelmingly stark, beautiful and majestic Scottish island is the real star of this film. Writer/director Russell Owen (Inmate Zero) also dazzles with some trippy visuals, clever camerawork and an ominous score as the protagonist, who also has a fear of heights, starts to experience some increasingly unsettling moments that have him questioning his sanity. While not really scary, some of the visual imagery is truly disturbing, reminiscent of 2019’s The Lighthouse. (There’s even a spooky lighthouse in the film.)
There are two weak links in Shepherd. The first is Owen’s screenplay, so flimsy and noncommittal as to whether it wants to be psychological or supernatural horror that it is not so good as either. The second is Hughes’ wooden performance – at first his character seems broody and stoic but ultimately, we realize that’s just the only emotion he is giving us. Hey, at least Kate Dickie looks like she’s having fun chewing the scenery as the literally half-blind boat skipper.
• Principal photography of Shepherd took place on Scotland’s Isle of Mull and in Northern Wales.
• Tom Hughes starred as Thomas Trafford in the Emily Blunt-led 2022 Western series, The English.
• Welsh writer/director Russell Owen’s feature film debut was the 2020 horror/thriller Inmate Zero, about a zombie outbreak at a prison on a remote island in the North Atlantic. Owen has made hundreds of TV commercials for companies such as American Express, L’Oreal and Armani.