Australian short film Little Lamb is a gothic thriller that takes place in a world that is bleak, both in the landscapes in which its protagonist Louisa is trapped and in her chances of improving her life – or even continuing it beyond her young age.
Writer/director/editor Heidi Lee Douglas’s film is set in 1829 on Van Diemen’s Land, the name many Europeans used for colonial Tasmania. Louisa (Georgia Lucy) is a convict forcibly transported to that island by the British government. Though her cellmate Agnes (Jude Kuring in a brief but riveting performance) warns that life is worse outside their prison walls, Lucy is desperate to leave what she calls a “death hole.” When a local man named Mr. Black (James Grim) comes to the prison to select a new servant – an act that Agnes feels he has done more frequently than what might be considered normal – Louisa sees this as her best chance at escaping prison life. Mr. Black chooses Lucy and forces her to walk through the forest to his home while he rides comfortably on his horse.
Louisa quickly befriends a lamb and behaves cautiously around Mr. Black, who displays some disturbing behavior, such as peering in on her while she bathes. When he goes to town one day and orders her to prepare her new pet for his supper, she finds blood on a barn door and investigates an area from which he warned her away. After making some gruesome discoveries, she hears him approaching home early and finds that Agnes’ words may have been all too prophetic.
Everything is grim, from Louisa’s filthy face and clothes to the dangerous prison life where women are seen and heard being tormented by the male jailors, to Mr. Black’s farmhouse, which is in disrepair. Heidi Lee Douglas has crafted a masterful work that gives viewers a look at a small glimmer of victory and sense of justice in Louisa’s hopeless life.
Georgia Lucy is splendid as Louisa, embodying her character with a strong will for some sort of a better life. Viewers have no idea of the circumstances that led to Louisa’s imprisonment, yet we become instantly invested in her character thanks to Lucy’s performance. James Grim is chilling as Mr. Black. He exudes a powerful sense of menace and helps build Little Lamb’s growing impression of dread. A scene in which he sniffs and grunts behind Louisa as she kneads dough in his kitchen only tips us off to the beast that lies within him. Heidi Lee Douglas successfully pulls off a horror/thriller formula that seems easy in theory but is difficult to achieve in practice. She gives viewers a flawed heroine to emotionally invest ourselves in and a believable, horrific villain to threaten her.
The world Heidi Lee Douglas has designed for this period piece chiller is wholly realistic. The set, costume, and makeup departments have done a stellar job. Leuke Marriott’s cinematography captures the somber proceedings and inhospitable landscapes impeccably. Benjamin Walter Douglas’s score – often consisting of acoustic guitar, piano, and violin – sets the musical tone wonderfully, and two original songs written and sung by Georgia Lucy provide an authentic period folk-music feel.
Little Lamb (littlelambmovie.com) is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking. I give this tense gothic thriller my highest recommendation.
Little Lamb screened at the Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo tour event in Nagoya, Japan, in February 2016.
Little Lamb: (5 / 5)