Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton
What's it about
When genetic experimentation goes haywire, New Zealand’s sheep develop a taste for human flesh.
Is it good movie?
I’ve been excited to see BLACK SHEEP since I first heard about it. How could I not be; it’s a horror film about mutant sheep on the rampage, and as a special bonus, the makeup and special effects come courtesy of Peter Jackson’s WETA Workshop. While it’s not a home run, the film delivers on the promise of its unavoidably hilarious concept with over-the-top gore, a witty script and very solid first-time direction from Jonathan King.
The hero of the film is Henry (Nathan Meister), who has suffered from a severe phobia of sheep since a defining moment of his childhood, when his brother Angus scared the living piss out of him by donning a bloody sheepskin for a practical joke while the boys were simultaneously being informed that their father had suddenly died. Now completely traumatized by anything that goes “Baaaaaa”, Henry returns to the farm years later to sell his share of the land. Brother Angus (Peter Feeney), meanwhile, has poured a lot of funds into toying with the DNA of the local sheep to create the perfect wool-producing machine. When two animal rights activists (Danielle Mason and Oliver Driver) stumble upon the laboratory conducting the heinous experiments, they steal a vial of toxic waste, which is naturally spilled. A mutant sheep fetus (which humorously recalls the zombie baby in Jackson’s hilarious DEAD ALIVE) comes crawling out and begins the spread of a zombie-like infection to the local flock.
The film expertly blends the use of puppets, animatronics and at times hundreds of real sheep to create a roaming squadron of woolly death. The fine folks at WETA are enthusiastically up to the task of creating many old-school prosthetics and splattery gore effects that include unspooled intestines, chewed-off lips and devoured limbs. There are plenty of good gags, both visual and in the dialogue. At the end of one sequence, a sheep drives a truck over a cliff and that sight, combined with the sheep “baaaaaa”-ing as he plummets to his death, had me in hysterics. And when one character asks Henry exactly what the phobia is that he suffers from, he responds, “Oh nothing, just the completely unfounded and irrational fear that one day THIS is going to happen!”
King opens the movie with picturesque shots of the gorgeous New Zealand landscape accompanied by a stirring orchestral score, as though he is setting up a serious drama. The fact that he refrains from going totally overboard into campy nonsense actually helps BLACK SHEEP a great deal. The film puts on a veneer of taking itself seriously, but it obviously does not. King knows you’ll be laughing at the absurdity of sheep as blood-thirsty predators so he doesn’t bother beating us over the head with lame comedy. He sets up many nice shots and obviously knows his way around a camera, which helps a great deal as well.
One thing King has not yet mastered is the notion of pacing. Some of the action and suspense could have happened at a much faster clip. BLACK SHEEP takes a bit too much time setting itself up for the main course, and toward the end spirals out of control with additions of were-sheep and various other plot contortions that don’t totally work.
The cast is certainly game. Meister makes for a likable wuss, and I’m pretty much in love with sweetie pie Danielle Mason. Tammy Davis also makes a good impression, and steals a few scenes, as farmer friend Tucker.
Video / Audio
Video 2:35:1 Widescreen presentation
Audio English or French 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles
The Making of Black Sheep Fantastic 30-minute documentary that mostly delves into the effects work done by WETA, and the stuntwork in the film. The director and stars obviously had a lot of fun making the movie, which proves to be contagious.
Blooper Reel Three minutes of quick goofs from filming. Mildly amusing.
Five Deleted Scenes that don’t contain anything too juicy, just a bit more exposition about the toxic waste that creates the mutant sheep.
Early Morning a brief scene shot for the DVD.
Commentary by writer/director Jonathan King and star Nathan Meister As affable and informative as you could hope for from a commentary by a couple of Kiwis. There’s barely a moment of dead space between the two as they recall the fun of shooting.
The Film’s Trailer
While not a great film, BLACK SHEEP has a lot of fun with the premise of murderous sheep and contains some truly priceless moments of tongue-in-cheek humor, along with plenty of stuff for the gross-out crowd. Call your buddies, buy a case, and enjoy.