Suffering sheep-phobia after his father's death plunge trying to save a sheep, Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) returns to his family's farm to sell out to his older brother Angus (Peter Feeney), who is experimenting with genetic engineering on the sheep, with the help of a small band of scientists. When a couple of animal activists, Experience (Danielle Mason) and Gavin (Kevin McTurk) inadvertently release a mutant lamb into the farm, the ghastly little thing spreads a nasty bug which turns all the sheep into bloodthirsty predators. Henry, Experience and farmhand Tucker (Tammy Davis) find themselves stranded among the herd. As Tucker discovers, one bite from an infected sheep begins a metamorphosis that turns humans into weresheep ...
Review by Louise Keller:
Amid the blood, gore, shrieks and ovine freaks, there's plenty of novelty value in this original flock-horror fest, albeit little else. Writer director Jonathan King fleeces every bale of sheep humour to deliver a perverse, woolly yarn that is tainted black and delivers scares and laughs in equal quantities. This is a film that is ideal for a midnight screening, where it won't matter that the ideas outweigh the execution, nor that things become a baaa--t repetitive, as sheep turn monstrous and men morph into weresheep. Unique is the juxtaposition of this gross-out humour with the serene, verdant beauty of New Zealand.
Set in Peter Jackson territory, the birthplace for such classics as Brain Dead, Black Sheep is saturated with the flavours of New Zealand. The characters speak with the distinctive accent and the scenery is drop dead gorgeous. King gets excellent performances from his cast; in particular Nathan Meister as Henry, the former-farm boy, now in therapy and Danielle Mason as the feng shui disciple Experience, who suggests pretending to be a tree in order to cope when surrounded by flocks of man-eating sheep. Peter Feeney makes Angus Oldfield a formidable wacko and Glenis Levestam as the devoted housekeeper Mrs Mac brings plenty of horrified laughs as she guts rabbits, cooks haggis and offers sheep's balls as a delicacy.
The special effects are well executed and it is with sick fascination that we watch as men turn into sheep-like monsters. This is a monster movie with gross comedic elements. If blood and guts turn you off your lamb chops, you might be best to stay at home. But originality will ensure that this shears the jugular of some flocking fanatics.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If the werewolf genre needed a subgenre, what better than the weresheep genre ... Black Sheep is the first of what may be a whole flock of weresheep movies made in New Zealand (where else), infested with the splatter horror taste that gave Peter Jackson his first lessons in filmmaking (eg Bad Taste). Jonathan King's offaling ... sorry, offering, is cinematically polished and abundantly bizarre. The concept drives the film and engages us with its bloody little hooves, as these docile animals turn into raging death machines, eating human flesh as if we were lambs. Yes, well, you can go down that line of thinking (symbolic reversal, anti-nature, all that) but in fact it's unnecessary and unhelpful.
Black Sheep doesn't pull the wool over our eyes with profound subtext; it's a gore-fest set in a beautiful landscape where nature is upended. The genre is respected even while it's being subverted, and the laughs are as numerous as the groans of discomfort. But then it wouldn't be true to itself if it didn't make you squirm as a sheep rips off a face or pulls eagerly on a bit of intestine - or in poor old Angus' case, something even worse.
King is not making The Birds with sheep, thankfully, but he has cottoned onto the Hitchkockian premise about normality perverted being more terrifying than the naturally bad big wolf. The experimental science of the lambs is thus more shocking for its corruption of animal innocence. But be sure to plan your choice of post-viewing meal carefully ... try fish, say.
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JONATHAN KING INTERVIEW
BLACK SHEEP (MA)
CAST: Nathan Meister, Peter Feeney, Danielle Mason, Tammy Davis, Glenis Levestam, Tandi Wright, Oliver Driver, Matthew Chamberlain
PRODUCER: Philippa Campbell
DIRECTOR: Jonathan King
SCRIPT: Jonathan King
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Richard Bluck
EDITOR: Chris Plummer
MUSIC: Victoria Kelly
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kim Sinclair
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 16, 2007