Black Sheep (2007)

You don’t hear much from New Zealand by way of horror movies. Excepting Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and the Frighteners (okay, Peter Jackson’s entire filmography), and there’s not much else to watch. I guess we could throw the Howling III: the Marsupials into the mix just to bulk things up, but I’m guessing some Guineas would take offense.

Then along comes Black Sheep. A black (pun intended) comedy very much in the same vein as Dead Alive. Only this time, instead of a degenerative virus being spread carried by non-indigenous animals, now it’s all due to an Earth First!-type group stealing genetically modified material and accidentally setting it loose on New Zealand’s sheep pastures. The attack coincides with Henry (Nathan Meister) returning home to sell his portion of the family farm to his brother, Angus (Peter Feeny).

Henry and childhood friend, now farmhand, Tucker (Tammy Davis) pick up environmentalist Experience (Danielle Mason) on the way off the farm, and the fun begins! Imagine your favorite zombie movie, but with flash-eating sheep instead of zombies. The same home-invasion-y antics, only this time with a bit of Hitchcock’s the Birds mixed in. After the first attack, Henry, Tucker, and Experience have to walk through a herd of sheep to get back to the truck. Surrounded by sheep, they don’t know which sheep are carnivorous and which aren’t.

One very nice touch is how when a human is bitten by one of the mutant sheep, they slowly take on sheep characteristics. Adding both humor to the proceedings as well as giving the special effects team a way to show their stuff.

While we see both Tucker and Angus developing their sheep aspects, it’s failed environmental saboteur Grant (Oliver Driver) that makes the first full change. Fittingly, Henry and Experience find Grant in a barn, shaving himself with sheers.

My only real complaint with the film is its pacing. Black Sheep peaks entirely too early. If the third act’s events could be transferred to the second, the film would run much smoother; as well as stay more interesting.

As it stands, Henry and Experience trek through the wilderness surviving sheep attacks first; with the action culminating with a showdown in the showdown with the mutated Grant. Which works well enough, until the narrative shifts.

A shift which takes us to a press conference being invaded by sheep. While watching the sheep attack Henry and Experience (i.e. two protagonists we care about) is gripping, watching sheep tear through nameless businessmen is not. Had this occurred before Henry was attacked, we’d have at least been left with a good idea of what kind of damage the sheep could do.

The same idea goes for Angus’ big monster turn. We see Angus transform into a giant sheep for the “climatic” showdown with Henry. Only Henry has already fought a giant sheep, Grant. So, really, what’s another added to the tally?

That said, Black Sheep is still a lot more fun than most genre pieces coming out of the States. It’s nice to see New Zealand cementing its status as black comedy capital of the world. Never mind the copious amounts of special effects and blood work that are actual “effects,” and not just programming.

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One Response to “Black Sheep (2007)”

  1. I remember the same problem with Black Sheep – it started strong and peaked too early – it could’ve been more – but it was still very fun and creative

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