Black Sheep Review
By Chris Cabin
You count them to put you to sleep and you broil them to munch on after a lazy church Sunday. They get sheared to make quite a bit of your clothes and are fluffy and innocent enough to let your toddler give them a big, soft hug. But in New Zealand, they'll eat you, your family, and the man who had the audacity to try and cut off their fluff. Yes, even sheep now enjoy a place in the human-devouring field of horror films. Feasting on endless intestines, faces and even ear lobes, the bloodthirsty ewes of Jonathan King's Kiwi cocktail Black Sheep should not be trifled with.
Absurdist to the nth degree, King dabbles in werewolf and zombie constructions to create this gooey, gross concoction of horror ethos. Per Danny Boyle's instructions, it all starts with those PETA bastards. An animal rights dope named Grant (Oliver Driver) and his groove-appropriate gal-pal Experience (Danielle Mason) hijack a flesh-hungry lamb from a laboratory that was due for destruction only moments later. Soon enough, the sucker gets loose and digs in on Grant's ear before spreading the hunger to the rest of the herd.
The dinkus behind the fluffy face-rippers, Angus Oldfield (Peter Feeney), wants to engineer sheep to attract more business to his docile New Zealand farming community. When he makes his (outdoor) speech to the investors, the sheep are ready for a full-on buffet. Elsewhere, Angus' brother Henry (Nathan Meister) has teamed up with Experience to fight Grant, who has become a nine-foot weresheep who munches on rabbits and shears himself. Stemming from a macabre childhood prank perpetrated by Angus, Henry embraces his fear of sheep (and Experience) to take on a weresheep Angus who might spell the end of the New Zealand farming community.
There is simply no way for me to nay-say a film where a sheep snacks on a man's privates (while he's still alive) and where a weresheep feels guilty over possibly eating meat (that might not even be organic). Give due praise to the maniacs over at Peter Jackson's WETA workshop who designed the famished ewes, not to mention the like-minded beast from Bong Joon-ho's extraordinary The Host. Perhaps it's the politics of the times but 2007 has become a banner year for conscious creep-outs. Whether it's these seething sheep, the skull-vomiting host, the meth-heads of Bug, or the snuff-lovers of Vacancy, splattering subtext has become lovably chic these days and the eco-thrills of Black Sheep are part of that.
Of course, King's cringes are nowhere near as honed as the aforementioned shockers, partly because the joke only can be used for so long before it gets boring, and the cardboard that is touted as character can't be charming for the film's entire 80-minute runtime. The ridiculousness of the very story brings on the eventual deterioration of the plot, degenerating into a mélange of corpses with intestines hanging out, limbs being devoured, and jaws being ripped away, not to mention a final battle scene between two humans and a monstrous weresheep . Maybe it's not exactly what Romero had in mind, but for pure insanity, Black Sheep does its job and it does it well.
Ewe talkin' to me?
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Thursday 29th March 2007
Box Office Worldwide: $4.9M
Distributed by: IFC Films
Production compaines: New Zealand Film Commission, Live Stock Films
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Fresh: 63 Rotten: 27
Cast & Crew
Starring: Nathan Meister as Henry Oldfield, Peter Feeney as Angus Oldfield, Danielle Mason as Experience, James Ashcroft as Prebble, Mick Rose as Mike, Tammy Davis as Tucker, Glenis Levestam as Mrs. Mac, Tandi Wright as Dr. Rush, Matthew Chamberlain as Oliver Oldfield, Oliver Driver as Grant