Thursday, March 20, 2008

Black Sheep (2007) - mini-review

I just saw a great movie on DVD: Black Sheep, a New Zealand horror-comedy. “There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand and they’re pissed off!” is one of the taglines. This is a totally low-budget flick, with an unknown Kiwi cast and experienced Kiwi crew (many of whom worked on King Kong and the LotR movies, according to the “Making Of” featurette). It’s awesome.

The predictable story is this: The hero, Henry, grew up on a bucolic sheep station, happily headed towards a sheep farming career until one fateful day when (1) his nasty brother kills his pet lamb and terrorizes him with the bloody carcass and (2) his father – a three-time national shearing champion – dies in a freak accident. Utterly traumatized, Henry leaves the farm only to return fifteen years later, still unable to even look at a sheep without a full-blown panic attack. Angus, Henry’s nasty brother, now runs the family farm and is experimenting with genetics to develop an Ubersheep. Misguided environmentalists steal some genetic material from the lab and, one broken test tube later, aggressive carnivorous mutant sheep are running rampant over the station, slaughtering humans left and right. It is up to Henry, his childhood friend and the current farm manager Tucker, and the cute girl environmentalist to save the day. It’s awesome.

The special effects are impressive: all practical effects - like incredibly realistic animatronics, puppets and prostheses, and no CGI that I could determine – done by Weta Workshop, the NZ-based effects folks behind The Chronicles of Narnia, Hellboy, LotR, and many more. Because the humans turn into zombie weresheep if they are bitten by mutant mutton but not killed and eaten, the filmmakers were even able to do homage to American Werewolf in London with a great transformation sequence. There’s a lot of blood and intestines and chewed off limbs for the gore fans as well. It’s awesome.

Black Sheep is an excellent addition to what is becoming my new favorite subgenre, comedic horror, and easily takes its place in the pantheon alongside Slither and Shaun of the Dead. This movie is very funny (to defend against a weresheep attack, throw mint jelly on it – it burns like holy water does a vampire! Hee hee hee hee hee!) with just enough gore and scare (at one point, when a mutant sheep is trying to get at the cornered heroes, I jumped so much that I spilled my tea all over myself. (Yes, I drink decaffeinated lemon tea with honey while watching horror movies.)). If you like a little comedy with your horror, or a little horror with your comedy, or even if you just like sheep, check this ba-a-a-a-d boy out. It’s awesome.

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