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Black Sheep

New Zealand 2007
Directed by
Jonathan King
87 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
4 stars

Black Sheep

Synopsis:  In order to produce the perfect sheep, scientists have been dabbling in a bit of genetic engineering. When two animal activists investigate the Oldfield farm they inadvertently let loose an ovine monstrosity that is soon infecting its fellow sheep. Before long, the local flock have been turned into a rampaging, flesh-eating herd from Hell with their sights on the transforming anything on two legs into one of them.

Harking back to those halcyon days of the horror film in the 80s, Jonathan King’s Black Sheep does for our woolly friends what The Howling franchise did for the lycanthrope. Full of blood, gore, latex transformations and sheep, the film is a shear delight from beginning to end.

It’s the most exciting debut feature by a Kiwi horror director since Peter Jackson took the reins of Bad Taste and Black Sheep is almost guaranteed to achieve similar heights of cult notoriety. The effects work by the WETA Workshop and creature-man Dave Elsey is fabulous. It’s obvious that everyone involved got a kick out of doing it “old school” style. The use of latex and rubber to create the gory mayhem may have been a budgetary decision but the lack of CGI is refreshing. Arms, legs and every appendage imaginable go flying when the mobs of merino marauders attack. The transformations between man and sheep pay homage to the groundbreaking work of effects greats like Rick Baker and Rob Bottin as they distort every part of the human form. Black Sheep is a horror film love-in that vividly pays tribute to the films for which the crew have an obvious affection. You just know that each and everyone of them spent far too much of their youth in the local video shop.

There are some wonderful moments in the film: the premonition of impending doom as an angry mob of sheep can be seen advancing in the distance as the scientists obliviously make their presentation recalls Tippi Hendren waiting outside the school in Hitchcock’s The Birds. Unlike Hitchcock’s ecological horror film, Black Sheep, gives the sheep fair reason to revolt. The condemnation of animal experimentation is nicely handled and gives the film a serious edge, even if it doesn’t work overtime to maintain it.

You have to approach a film like Black Sheep knowing exactly what you are going to get. Any film that uses the tagline “Get Ready for the Violence of the Lambs!” is obviously not taking itself too seriously. It may be a one joke film but the mere idea of those gentle fluffy animals baring their teeth and ripping people limb from limb will be enough for most. King and friends have given us the most fun to be had in a horror film for many a year and if you don’t agree; ewe can just flock off.




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