Black Sheep Reviews
Without taking much time, Black Sheep immediately reveals its intentions to satire trope of the horror genre. Horror comedy is a genre which takes a lot of work to perfect because there has to be an appropriate balance to ensure thrills and laughter alike. In the case of Black Sheep, the film definetely leans more towards the comedic side. The production method and general narrative is very clearly a parody of B-grade horror movie tropes with Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1981) echoing throughout the entire film, while the premise centres on a combination between body horror and werewolf mythology. This could have been a clever blend of shocks and laughs, but Black Sheep pursues too much time attempting to parody itself to be much of a legitimate horror film. By attempting to capture so many horror tropes, the direction of the film ends up scattershot which results in the best intentions of the feature being undone.
There is much ambition to praise in Black Sheep as there are many horror genres that it wants to parody, but it pursues a few too many without drawing sufficient tension in the first place. The predictability of the narrative is forgivable, but the film ends up parodying itself too much to pass off as having any real horror value. The focus on humour overloads the film and interfers with its horror ambitions by preventing it from ever being serious about anything, resulting in a distinct lack of tension. Yet at the same time, the reliance on horror tropes prevents Black Sheep from functioning as a consistent comedy. The comedy isn't really all that developed because it relies on crude visual humour to carry it, so it certainly isn't the most intelligent. There is also a half-assed attempt to satirize the stereotype of young environmentalists with the addition of character Experience who is more annoying than laughable. Black Sheep is definetely more on the comedy spectrum than horror, but it doesn't really rest consistently as either because it is burdened by a lack of focus. I kept looking at Black Sheep and thinking that I should have loved the film because it really had some good gimmicks going for it and effective direction, but it's an all too clear fact that gimmicks cannot supplement a narrative.
At best, Black Comedy is entertaining in parts. The way that the film uses prosthetic effects is a refreshing throwback to the glory days of blood and gore that weren't overly reliant on visual effects, and the way the film uses pupptery evokes a nice humourous element. The prosthetics in the film are used very well because they create a creepy design for the titular creatures, and the moderated use of blood and gore in the film serves to benefit the experience. Black Sheep also employs the tactic of combining shots of regular sheep with close-ups of prosthetic creatures to style itself after the type of B-movie that it parodies
The New Zealand scenery is also very nice, so the visual experience is a very effective one. The soundtrack is also well-composed.
And being a New Zealand film about sheep, Black Sheep is absolutely begging for at least one moment where someone makes a joke about bestiality. Black Sheep gets away with this on a level subtle enough to not be cringe worthy yet blatant enough not to miss, and it's clearly one of the funniest part of the film. As far as the script goes I certainly got more laughs out of this one line than any of the others, but that's also partially because of the character who said it. Characterization is clearly no a strong point of Black Sheep, but I did get a kick out of the role played by Tammy Davis.
Tammy Davis portrays Tuker, the bumbling and lovable loser. His Maori nature gives Black Sheep a nice cultural touch for one thing, but it also gives the man a distinctive manner of speaking which is played for comic value. Given that he plays the one character in the film who doesn't pretend like anything around him is worth taking seriously, he effectively provides a nice lighthearted touch with a likable nature to him. Tammy Davis clearly has fun with the role and approaches it with an appropriate carefree attitude, and while everyone around him is busy being melodramatic Tammy Davis offers a supporting role where he provides sporadic comic relief which hits more notes than it misses. Tammy Davis offers the finest performance of Black Sheep.
As far as the rest of the cast goes, Black Sheep manages to get some fairly appropriate performances out of its cast. Though few of its actors are majorly recognizable stars, they manage to fit the profile of Black Sheep very nicely. Even with melodramatic drama at the helm of the script, the cast manage to keep up with the ridiculousness of the story through some effectively intense performances. Nathan Meister manages to convincingly convey a real scaredy cat by constantly remaining in a state of fear, and Peter Feeney effectively grasps a feeling of dark egotism which progressively becomes more intense as the story pushes into darker territory. Glenis Levestam also delivers a likable effort.
Unfortunately, Danielle Mason doesn't create the same result with her character Experience. Like I said, Experience is a lame character and there is nothing Danielle Mason can do to change that. She simply plays the part with the one-dimensional repetition in which she is cast into and brings forth the lack of effective comedy into its lifeless form. It's difficult to take much joy in her monotonous and laughless effort since she isn't convincing in humuourous or dramatic form, so the fact that she stands as an unknown cast member is not surprising in any form.
Black Sheep offers a dedicated cast and a display for Jonathan King's sense of style, but the scattered attempts to balance horror and comedy results in meandering comedy with minimal thrills and sporadic humour.
Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) has left his countryside farm after his father's death and an incident which left him scared of sheep. He returns 15 years later to collect his share of the estate after his brother Angus Oldfield (Peter Feeney) an award winning farmer. When all seems going to plan, he stumbles on a nature loving girl Experience (Danielle Mason) who is out to expose Angus's illegal genetic experiments on sheep. When a hazardous genetic sample goes into the wrong hands and let lose, it causes mayhem by turning the entire herd into zombie version of the sheep.
I reserve my comments on the overall performances - not sure if they were playing cocky or straight or intentionally goofy at times. Credit goes to the director who seems to know his way around creating slick tense scenes which is effectively edited and decently presented. The photography while being orthodox, still presents the lush landscapes of New Zealand country sides as beautiful as they are. CGI is still quite expensive during its making, so credit also goes into shooting the scenes where the sheep munches on what looks like human insides. The short run-time does a great job in not exhausting the viewer who probably would have started to think how ridiculous this movie actually is had it gone any longer.
A par B movie that took this crazy premise as extreme as it could.
With aspects of Cronenbergian body horror, the practical effects were fairly impressive considering the budget it must have had. A bit of work on the writing and some higher calibre actors, and this film would have achieved even greater heights of self-aware, tongue-in-cheek madness.
New Zealand's Weta Workshop, the SFX guys behind King Kong, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Xena, Daybreakers, Distric 9, Avatar, Van Helsing and 30 Days of Night worked on the SFX for Black Sheep too, and you sure as Hell notice it. The effects are out of this world. Who would've thought you could realistically go ahead with a transformation from man to "weresheep"?
Watching this, I sort of compared it to to Isolation, because they're basically the same thing, done in completely different ways. (For those of you who have never seen Isolation it's a British film about genetically altered cows that kill their human masters). Where Isolation failed, was in that despite the drama of the situation, I just couldn't take it seriously, Black Sheep doesn't even try. I suppose it's plausible that King came up with the idea before deciding to make it a comedy, and this is just the way it ended up, but it works.
Though I find New Zealand accents mildly irritating, the fact that the characters actually have development begs my forgiveness, and I'm more than willing to reciprocate. It's fantastic to have a gore-ridden, uproariously funny film, where the characters are not only believable, but you actually kinda care about them. Sure there's not really anything to it other than absurdist humour, but it's the perfect example of it.
Setting is a big deal to me, and though it's not on par with the cinematography of Wolf Creek or Rome, but it's beautiful enough for that one aspect for of it to hold up all on its own. It's yet another of those films I talk about often, where it's great to watch while you're drinking, where it differs though, is that even if you're sober, you'll still enjoy it, albeit, less so.
Almost everything about it is good, but it's important to note, that if you think about any single thing in the movie on its own, you could think of another film that does it better. It's still very enjoyable, but it wasn't all together cohesive and seemed to throw away on a whim a lot of the potential that it had. For a first film though, a lot of congratulations are in order for Mr. King.
So a dodgy sheep owner on a farm is carrying out dodgy genetic experiments on his sheep to turn them into carnivores. Naturally a couple of people steal a mutant lamb to try and expose this but they accidentally release it causing a mass infection of the sheep.
So its pretty much any infectious zombie flick you can think of but replace dead humans with mutated sheep. Sounds insane and it is, but I guess animals of such vast numbers like sheep, cows, chickens, pigs etc...would be perfect for this type of genre. If you think about it they are the most unlikely creatures that humans would be worried about, so there would be the under estimation of danger along with their sheer numbers.
This film is labelled as a horror comedy and has clearly been influenced by 'American Werewolf in London'. The sheep are like weresheep, their bite turns people into half sheep half human bipedal freaks that look like zombiefied monster sheep, plus the blood and gore is through the roof with some great hands on makeup effects. There is even a homage to the classic moment in 'American Werewolf' where David transforms and we see his face n body extending with cracking bones. This is pretty much copied here (mainly the face) and looks just as good I might add.
Not your average horror and not really scary, more of a fun idea (possible homage) showcasing some great makeup effects and good use of some real flocks. What I'm waiting for now is the same thing again but for pigeons in London, seriously it could work.