Movie Review: Black Sheep

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In rural New Zealand, a traumatised former farmboy comes back home to discover sinister goings on at the family farm, at which something strange is happening to the sheep.

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Jonathan King, 2006

The film follows Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister), whose mean older brother Angus (Peter Feeney) scared him into life-long ovinophobia (fear of sheep) on the day their father died. Henry returns to the farm as an adult, where he meets up with childhood friend Tucker (Tammy Davis), a hippy called Experience (Danielle Mason), and housekeeper Mrs. Mac (Glenis Levestam). It isn’t long after his arrival back at his childhood home before he starts noticing there’s something strange about the sheep, and something strange happening to the people they bite…or that the strangeness leads back to his brother’s quest to find the perfect sheep that will really put the Oldfield farm on the map. Henry is forced to find the strength to fight his sheep fear as he battles the zombie sheep menace his brother has created.

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I have to say, I thought this movie was a lot of fun. It’s a black comedy/horror splattered with creature effects and gore in the vein of the old Peter Jackson films, and it’s got enough self-deprecating laughs and terrific transformations to keep most cult classic fans satisfied. It’s a quintessentially Kiwi movie – Mrs. Mac is proud of her Scottish heritage, there are a couple of brilliantly tongue-in-cheek sheep shagging jokes (watching Angus’s relationship with his prize sheep is a particularly twisted delight), and the landscapes are used to wonderfully broody effect. It looks great, which is at least in part to Weta Workshops, who seem to have looked back at old Stan Winston creations like An American Werewolf in London for inspiration. The creatures are ghoulish fun, as are the human-to-sheep-monster transformations. There’s a particularly gory bloodbath at the hooves of the fiendish sheep in one memorable scene, blood splattering the camera joyfully. The inherently funny idea of violent sheep is mined for a series of great jokes that will make you look twice at any sheep you encounter in the future.

The plot is pretty predictable, and the acting from the leads isn’t exactly the struff of legends (the best acting comes from supporting roles). Most of the characters are paper-thin archetypes, although there is some fun to be had with each of them, and the women provide some particularly sharp and funny moments (and, it must be noted, pass the Bechdel test). It isn’t going to be winning any awards for writing, but it’s brought to the screen with a lot of energy and a commitment to enjoying those things that filmmaking kids have always gotten into the business for – gross stuff, crazy jokes, one-liners, and cool shots. I can see this one becoming a cult classic down the road, particularly in New Zealand, and I’m glad I finally got to see it – I’ve been wanting to since I saw the tagline “get ready for the violence of the lambs”.

Black Sheep on IMDb

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