'Black Sheep' - Zombie Movie Review
In the wrong hands, a zombie movie focused on rural New Zealand sheep sounds like an incredibly boring, absurd and idiotic idea.
Fortunately, Black Sheep was assembled by the right hands.
A prologue introduces us to the Oldfield brothers as they live their childhood in a sheep farm run by their father. The younger brother, Henry, has a natural ability for farming and a deep love and respect for animals, to the point of having a personal pet sheep.
Angus, on the other hand, is a little psychopath who, perhaps jealous of his brother's relationship with his father, ends up murdering Henry's pet sheep and using its hide and skin to make a horrible prank on his younger brother.
Just at the moment when Henry is processing the scare and the horrible implications of his cruel older brother's prank, both are notified by the farm's housekeeper Mrs. Mac (Glenis Levestam) about their father's sudden death. Without a mother since Henry's birth, both now are officially orphans.
The result of that shocking moment on Henry? A horrendous trauma that will manifest from now on in a paralyzing phobia towards sheep.
Fifteen years later, Henry (Nathan Meister) has become a full-blown city man, largely because of his phobia. After a long time, he has decided to return to his childhood home to sell his share of the farm to his brother Angus (Peter Feeney). Angus, thanks to a series of illegal and unethical genetic experiments and practices, has built a mini-empire.
Henry is also there to face his fears and to accept the rural life as a fundamental part of who he is.
In parallel, a pair of environmental activist hippies named Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason) conduct a clumsy investigation to expose Angus' illegal and cruel experiments. In a moment of his improvised spirit, Grant ends up stealing a small sheep inside a container with a strange liquid, which turns out to be a hostile mutant-zombie sheep with carnivorous impulses. Grant's clumsiness ends up destroying the container, unleashing the blood-thirsty creature.
But that's not all. Slowly and progressively, we learn that the bites of the mutant sheep are contagious. The bitten sheep end up becoming carnivorous-zombie-hostile ones while the bitten humans end up becoming...sheep.
That's right, Black Sheep has "Were-sheeps".
The level of absurdity and "magic science" of Black Sheep is skyrocketing, but the great direction and script of Jonathan King achieve that the final product doesn't look like a cynic self-parody of a B-movie.
This film has its own personality that makes the spectator, even when laughing and cringing to the gore, recognize it as a well-crafted, cohesive and unique work.
The Black Sheep title is clever. Evidently, it refers to the mutant and murderous condition of the sheep, but it's also a title that could be applied to any of the two brothers of the story. It could be Henry, for not following the rural familiar tradition. It could be Angus, for his unethical and immoral attitude leading the family business.
What's Your Rating For Black Sheep?
The work of Weta Workshop is one of the main reasons for the good quality of Black Sheep. At that moment with already impressive projects under the belt like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I, Robot and Hellboy, the New Zealand special effects company dials down the CGI and focuses on puppets, makeup and practical effects that were its hallmark in the early 90's.
That's why Black Sheep has a wonderful feel to the splatstick and the dark humor of Peter Jackson's early works. It's impossible not to see the influence of Braindead and Meet the Feebles on those crazed, murderous and horny sheep.
That's why the humorous elements in Black Sheep work so well. Normally, gags like that of a sheep trying to fornicate a disguised human (who escapes by hammering the animal's testicles) or an explosion generated by sheep farts would be condemned to be perceived as a juvenile, idiotic lower kind of humor.
And although kinda is, Black Sheep manages to frame that idiocy in its deranged frame, achieving a communion between fart jokes, splatstick, mutant sheep, an interesting family history and even an ecological and animalistic message.
Because yes, it's a pleasant surprise to see how the character of Experience, although it's a caricature of activism, ends up promoted to heroine, survivor, and the carrier of valid points.
Black Sheep is the most New Zealand zombie movie ever. And that's a great thing. Well maybe "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" has that title now, but still a heroic effort if you enjoy the "genre".
Title: Black Sheep
Release Year: 2006
Director(s): Jonathan King
Actors: Oliver Driver, Nathan Meister, Tammy Davis, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards