I've been following this movie from the day someone announced the concept was happening, much to the delight of Kiwis, New Zealanders, everywhere. We kind of thought it was another one of those piss takes Kiwis delight in having at the U.S's expense. Movie about killer mutant sheep, yeah right, Hollywood will believe anything. It was a shock to learn debut film maker Jonathan King wasn't joking and actually managed to get this concept off the ground and into theatres. Here I'm reviewing a preview copy of the R4 release sent my way by Lisa and Fi over at Icon Distribution.
Talk us through itbr> Henry Oldfield is heading home to sell his share of the family farm to his brother Angus. Henry doesn't like farms that much due to "ovinophobia" brought about by his brother playing a practical joke on him when they were younger involving a pet sheep, an axe, and a sheep skin. Oh and his father died on the day of the "joke". So how's your day been going?
Unfortunately Brother Angus has been doing a slight bit of genetic tampering with sheep, which as we all know works real well in a horror outing. And yes Angus is the eee-vil one in it only for the money, and bringing a new meaning to the term "animal husbandry".
Enter environmentalists Experience and Grant, who break into the secret lab that dripped blood and make off with a container that Grant believes is the proof they need that something is rotten in rural New Zealand. They are pursued by farm workers and flee into the bush becoming separated in the process. Grant trips over a branch and the container shatters freeing an "undead" foetus that immediately latches onto Grant's ear. Not content with Grant the foetus proceeds to infect the local flock. Flocking hell this can't be good!
Henry, farm worker Tucker, and Experience end up at the back of the farm with a marauding flock of killer mutant sheep between them and the main house. They need to get the word out before everyone's sunday roast, oops sorry Nicole, turns the tables on the Nation. One heck of a good splatter comedy ensues.
Ready to dive on into some mutton?
"I thought you of all people would appreciate efforts to deconstruct the colonialist paternalistic agrarian hierarchy that disenfranchises the Tangata Whenua and erodes the natural resources of Aotearoa." - Experience
First up I really enjoyed Black Sheep with the movie living up to the hype that had been generated in horror circles over the course of a couple of years. Director/Writer Jonathan King delivers a splatter comedy in the tradition of fellow kiwi Peter Jackson, the U.S effort Slither, and the U.K's Evil Aliens. It's a blood drenched hayride to hell, and I was onboard from whoa to go, chuckling in places, and getting the sly humour thrown my way; "If it wasn't for my gumboots" (think Fred Dagg, Kiwis and Aussies will get that one).
For a change I thought I might address some of the more rabid criticisms being thrown at Black Sheep by the cinema intelligentsia who really do need to take the carrot out, and view movies on their own terms. It's a splatter comedy it's not meant to be On Golden Pond amigos! You're going in to see a movie about killer mutant sheep, love typing that, exactly what did you expect you were going to see? Feel free to think you're all superior with good taste, I'm your beer and potato chip Reviewer over here, you know the average audience member the movie is aimed at.
Bad acting with the sheep presenting the only decent on screen performances. Besides the fact that this movie is a "B" grader, hence hamming it up is a requirement, what an absolutely racist comment to make. This is a movie set in rural New Zealand, the actors present a pretty good interpretation of the rural folk in Aotearoa, Maori for New Zealand "the land of the long white cloud". If you have spent any time in Country, and in particular on a farm, then you will be grinning over the performances in Black Sheep. Each actor presents a true blue kiwi that had me believing in their characters.
The sheep thing is pretty poor even by Critic standards, didn't see that statement lumbering over the horizon and baaing in my direction.Full marks to Oliver Driver (Grant) by the way for really going over the top with a required "ham" performance in a sub genre movie.
The movie doesn't know if it wants to be comedy or a horror flick. Once again it's a movie about killer mutant sheep, go on admit that doesn't bring a smile to your face, it's meant to have comedic elements and horror. I was chuckling away during most parts of the movie and on about three occasions laughed out loud, apologises to my neighbours. As a script writer Jonathan King delivered exactly what I had dialled in for, a zany movie with punch lines, the ability to take the piss out of itself, and more importantly an outing that didn't take itself seriously. Horror wise, for those not versed in splatter comedy; think one of those skits the Monty Python crew threw on with a heavy wink at Sam Peckinpah. You got limbs flying left, right, and centre, guts plastered over the screen, and blood gushing all over the shop. Jonathan King matches Peter Jackson's Dead Alive on the gore stakes.
It's incredibly slow paced and dull. Well sorry they didn't throw in a few car chases and about every building in sight being blown up, oh and Sam Jackson screaming out "get these mofo sheep off my mofo farm". Gosh Jonathan King should be horsed whipped for trying to add in some character development, what were you thinking Bro? Am really left wondering what the hell movies some Critics go and see. If you think Black Sheep is slow paced then your entire movie diet must consist of action flicks like Die Hard. Actually people levelling this criticism probably consider the first third of Die Hard "incredibly slow paced". Sorry if you thought the movie was dull, guess killer mutant sheep eating people isn't your thing, I would suggest sticking with Eli Roth torture flicks then. Oh wait they would be "incredibly slow paced" as well. Do you people actually like movies, have you actually seen Black Sheep, what an incredibly inane statement.
The humour is juvenile relying on fart jokes. Sorry the fart thing goes down in one scene, if you don't enjoy the odd fart joke then you really do need to get a life and not take things so seriously. Me l love a good fart joke, King adds one in which works as the resolution as it happens, outstanding! For quite sometime I have been thinking Critics no longer listen to the actual dialog in movies, if you didn't pick up on the constant stream of one liners cleverly worked into the script here then you really should give up reviewing movies and settle for your local school's year end play. Wonderful incidental humour going down, mint sauce as an anti "weresheep" device for example. If anyone wants to invest some time in Black Sheep then I'm pretty sure they will be grinning ear to ear with the word play, and the one fart joke in the movie.
Right so what's good about Black Sheep and why did I drop a 10 out of 10 on it's bleating arse? As a Director Jonathan King is showing real promise, he could have filmed his debut feature without taking risks and no one would have condemned him for it. There's some broad vista shoots showing the rugged kiwi terrain, and by the by also nailing how isolated his lead characters are with ovine mayhem breaking out. I didn't think it would be possibly but King actually makes his sheep look menacing, all about shot composition and framing. Who would have thought sheep could be evil bastards. Loved King's introduction of the "weresheep", very much reminded me of Dante's The Howling introduction of the werewolves. There's that same off centre, almost surreal quality to things. Wonder if King would site The Howling as an influence? Finally King scores a money shoot with a flock of sheep rampaging down a hillside with clearly an outdoor meeting below on the menu. Wonderful long shot of white on green, before King hits the geyser button with the gore and infuses everything with red. If you are slightly squeamish then look away during this sequence. As a Director King might well be New Zealand's best since Peter Jackson stormed Hollywood.
Thank god for Weta Studios, who did all the effects for the movie. Rather than going heavy with the CGI, very little if not any in evidence, we get puppets, latex, and the animatronics are heavily in use. Weta outdid themselves in Black Sheep and I would have had a few chills running down my spine if I had of worked late nights in the studio during production. Some gnarly creature effects going down there. Weta deserve an award for their work on Black Sheep but don't quite think the Academy are hip enough to dial into "B" graders.
Finally, and think I might have outstayed my welcome here, Black Sheep is a splatter comedy, Jonathan King raises his movie above the subgenre abyss, and presents a mighty fine movie in it's own right. Assuming you can get onboard the whole mutant killer sheep concept.
Summary Executionbr> I was baaaing at the moon over Black Sheep, another fine entry in the splatter comedy stakes. Director King won me over with his craftsmanship, his ability to take risks, and the out right mayhem going down on my screen. The movie romped along without breaking pace, threw one liners at me constantly, loved the Tucker character, and didn't stint when it came to splashing the claret. Seriously good use of live sheep with the animatronics etc that Weta Studio ladled onto the movie. I'm more than pleased with the entire cast who presented believable kiwi characters, of the staid conservative kind. I was absolutely enthralled by the quality of this cheaply made kiwi Indie outing, that looked for the entire world like it had a $30 million budget. And finally full marks to composer Victoria Kelly who rounded the movie up and got it in behind, excellent score coming your way.
DVD Extras Since this is a DVD preview let's look at the extras Icon send our way.
Black Sheep is a movie tailor made for splatter comedy fans or for those who don't mind something left field on their movie play list. Sure it's got a high gore quota, but this is off set by the movie never taking itself seriously. One of the best recent New Zealand horror movies to come across my desk, a must see for the horror community. After viewing Black Sheep you will be wondering what Jonathan King can come up with next, if this, his debut feature, is anything to go by then New Zealand have a major new talent on their hands. My advice would be to hunt this movie out, watch it as soon as possible, and by heck play it again Sam. Put mutton on the menu today!
ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...br> br> Full ticket price on this movie! Heck add a coke and a large pop-corn.