The last time a New Zealand filmmaker began a career in the genres of comedy and horror he wound up directing The Lord of the Rings. While this fact alone should make audiences sit up and take notice of Black Sheep, the zany new horror film from debut New Zealand director Jonathon King, the fact that the picture is a prime contender for this year’s best genre film is quite another.
Returning to the family farm after a decidedly long absence, Henry Olfield comes home to not only face his childhood phobia of sheep, but to collect a substantial check from his entrepreneurial brother Angus. Working with some of the South Pacific’s most talented genetic engineers, Angus has been experimenting to create the perfect sheep. When one of the labs failed experiments is set loose by a few do-gooder environmentalists, the rabid creatures quickly turns the farm’s hundreds of sheep into ravenous, meat eating killers.
Chalk full of “shear” insanity, Black Sheep is a fantastic sugar rush of campy cinema. Filled with great gags, fantastic practical effects and buckets of gore, Black Sheep does an unbelievable job of mixing several subgenres of horror into one uniquely entertaining romp.
Taking cues from Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead, The Evil Dead and Dead Alive, Jonathon King has selectively evoked from some of the best horror has to offer. King had the difficult challenge of making a perfectly harmless fluff ball into something that evokes terror, and while you may not be screaming your head off at the sight of hordes of sheep wrangling innocent human victims, one has to give the first time director credit for making them truly intimidating.
The key to successfully creating a baaad sheep (sorry I couldn’t resist) is obviously graphic violence. Limbs viciously ripped off, disembowelments and castrations are just some of the ghoulish treats in store for audiences, but that’s not all. The film plays off the tensions and fears that surround genetic engineering so brilliantly that all the over-the-top carnage will undoubtedly spark debate on the subject.
With Peter Jackson’s WETA Workshops at the helm of the special effects, you had better believe there is a plethora of fun little facts waiting to be discovered on the Black Sheep DVD. Dimension Extreme did a fantastic job assembling the DVD, which has a surprising girth of content for a single disc release.
Jonathon King is a movie geek at heart, and hearing his giddy excitement as he chats alongside the star of Black Sheep, Nathan Meister, for the feature commentary is exhilarating. As morbid and bizarre as the premise may seem, Black Sheep was a story that the film aficionado in King was just dying to unleash on the world. You can’t help but get caught up in his enthusiasm about killer sheep.
While the gag-reel is fairly standard stuff, it was refreshing to see deleted scenes with some substance. Supported by additional commentary from King and Meister, the two reveal exactly why these scenes were trimmed and how their inclusion would have effected the film overall.
The highlight of the disc is The Making of Black Sheep, a nearly hour long documentary that sheds some light on how King and WETA teamed up to create some seriously scary sheep. The doc features great behind the scenes shots that are sprinkled with fantastic puppeteering, informative bits on creating gore and some good ol’ fashioned New Zealand charm.
A must see genre film for anyone who fancies over-the-top gore, Black Sheep is a rare cinematic gem that is sure to please its demographic. Run with your shears pointed away from you and snatch up this disc, because horror films this fun are few and far between.
– Joe Russo (www.MoviePulse.net)