By Mike Davidson
LONDON – Tom Hughes stars in British indie horror “Shepherd”, portraying a widower seeking respite from his wife’s death by taking a job on a barren Scottish island.
But what first appears as a remote getaway turns into a terrifying nightmare as Hughes’ character Eric, a shepherd, is haunted by a mixture of guilt, paranoia and ghostly apparitions.
Filmed on the Scottish island of Mull, the movie premiered at last month’s London Film Festival and hits British cinemas on Friday.
Reuters spoke to Hughes and director Russell Owen. Below are excerpts, edited for length and clarity:
Q: What was the genesis of “Shepherd”?
Owen: “There was a very famous story off the coast of Wales, the Smalls lighthouse … what I took from that was the isolation and the madness, then created a character to occupy that atmospheric situation.
“… The development of (Eric) was born out of friends that I’d known had gone through depression, some had lost their lives to it and so I wanted to craft something that was open-ended so people could decide whether he was mad, whether he was alive or not, whether he was still on the island.”
Q: What were the challenges in putting this together?
Owen: “One of the hardest things is encouraging everyone to go and film on the far northwest of Scotland in the middle of winter, on an island, get a house built and a lighthouse, and all sorts of the insets built and whatnot.”
Q: How did you come across the project?
Hughes: “I … read the script and was drawn to it … I found the challenge exciting. You don’t often get the opportunity to helm a film and try and hold that story without anyone to really bounce it off … For a lot of the film, it’s just me on my own, and that was a challenge.”
Q: Did the isolation on Mull play to the strengths of what you had to bring to the role?
Hughes: “The island was like a manifestation of his internal state. He’s almost conjuring the isolation for himself by going to this island … And so therefore, by proxy, being the actor playing the role, the island carried a weight for me on being there, getting to five o’clock, you can’t just go to a restaurant in the middle of a city … there could only be one focus, and that one focus was the film (and) the character.”