New Zealand



had to finally force sheep buggery into a horror film, and it makes sense that
a Kiwi would be the one to do it. With Black Sheep, Jonathan King has made
a film so obviously indebted to Peter Jackson (Dead Alive in particular)
that it can be difficult to take seriously. But that’s not really the point,
and you can’t argue with craft. Even when some of the approaches and gags feel
recycled, Black Sheep remains funny, gory and stupid — exactly the sort
of pure escapist horror that a million other Jackson imitators haven’t been
able to get right.


When a
well-meaning but egocentric environmentalist raids the site of genetic animal
experimentation, he steals with what appears to be a jar full of fetus. The
thing in the canister isn’t dead, though, and when loosed it bites the guy,
turning him into (not) exactly the sort of sheep man that Haruki Murakami dreamed
of. The mutant then infects hundreds of other sheep to create…an army of killer
sheep. Er. An Army of Killer Sheep!


The plot
that follows is the sort of chase film you’ve seen in a hundred zombie movies
and slasher flicks. It’s propelled by likable performances by Danielle Mason,
Oliver Driver and Nathan Meister (as the environmentalist’s lady friend, the
sheep farm’s caretaker and the estranged brother of the farm’s owner) just as
much as by the gooey effects splashed about by Peter Jackson’s WETA.


Given how
closely Black Sheep follows some of Dead Alive‘s concepts, I
wish it had just gone all out and dispensed with story and ‘reality’ to follow
the trail of gore. There are some great ideas, like the mint jelly which burns
sheep men like holy water, but they’re rarely followed; most of the movie is
just a zombie movie with sheep.


WETA on board helps a lot, though, and the studio’s practical effects are
wonderful. There’s an American Werewolf sort of transformation sequence, a lot
of excellent guts and grue, and enough violence against man and sheep to keep
nearly any sheep-o-phobe happy – all with tongue planted firmly in cheek. That
separates Black Sheep from past Midnight Madness fare like Isolation, and keeps it
palatable even when the script veers off the rails into un-inspired lunacy.


little in the film that isn’t implied by the title, poster and trailer, but
that’s for the best. With an imaginative spirit that runs deeper than simple
Sheep = Zombies action this might have been a splatter comedy classic to rival
Jackson’s best. As is, it’s a fun, silly
way to explore the fears New Zealanders face every day.


6.9 out of 10