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Awesome: 18.18%
Worth A Look56.82%
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Total Crap: 11.36%

5 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Black Sheep (2007)
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by Mel Valentin

"Peter Jackson: eat your heart out."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Taking its cues from Peter Jackson's early splatterfests, "Bad Taste" and "Dead Alive," Sami Raimi’s "Evil Dead" trilogy and Dan O’Bannon’s "Return of the Living Dead," writer/director Jonathan King's "Black Sheep" offers up a gore-drenched variation on survival horror we’ve come to expect from modern riffs on the undead/zombie sub-genre George A. Romero co-created almost forty years ago with "Night of the Living Dead." The result is an occasionally brilliant, often hilarious, horror/comedy (don’t call it a spoof or a parody) with angry, hungry mutant sheep instead of flesh-eating ghouls. Add in over-the-top gore and gallons of fake blood and there’s little splatter enthusiasts will find to dislike.

Somewhere in New Zealand, the present. Fifteen years after an accident that left his father dead and a cruel prank that left him irrationally afraid of sheep, prodigal son Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) returns to the family farm run by his older brother, Angus (Peter Feeney). Henry's back for one reason and only reason, to collect a $2,000,000 check from his brother buying out his half-interest in the family farm. Plus, his therapist back in the big city thinks it's a good idea for Henry to exorcise his family demons. While at the farm, Henry visits with Mrs. Mac (Glenis Levestam), the housekeeper who helped raise him and Tucker (Tammy Davis), the manager.

While Henry has lived comfortably in the city, Angus has been busy developing a new super breed of sheep that will provide consumers with more meat and more wool. To that end, Angus has employed a disgraced geneticist, Dr. Rush (Tandi Wright), to help with his grandiose visions of creating the "Oldfield sheep." Along the way to perfect the sheep, however, Rush has made more than a few mistakes, all of which have been dumped in an offal pit. The less successful genetic experiments aren't a problem, animal activists, Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason), are. In his zeal to expose Angus and Dr. Rush's experiments, Grant accidentally breaks open a canister containing a still live experiment that promptly bites him before slipping off to bite as many sheep as it can find.

With that kind of horror/comedy setup, it's easy to figure out where Black Sheep is going, into full on, no-holds-barred survival horror mixed with ample amounts of laugh-inducing, over-the-top splatter that kept the artisans at Jackson's Weta Workshop extremely busy with minimal input from computer effects artists. The infected sheep turn on any humans that unluckily cross their paths. If mutant, carnivorous sheep aren't enough to keep genre fans happy, Black Sheep also offers up mutant human/sheep hybrids (a/k/a Were-Sheep) that share the mutant sheep's appetite for munching on uncooked meat (of the human variety).

All that's to the good, although a tight budget meant that the Were-Sheep are often kept in the dark or semi-dark and partially hidden by conveniently placed objects. As for the splatter, it's there in ample amounts, but it never reaches the level of inventive lunacy that made The Evil Dead trilogy, Return of the Living Dead, and Dead Alive ridiculous amounts of fun for horror fans everywhere. That also means Black Sheep is slightly disappointing, but it more than makes up for the short gore scenes with the obligatory mutant sheep vs. innocent bystanders scene that's bound to please horror fans.

There's a story here too, of course, a story that ends up as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unfettered, unregulated genetic engineering (and corporate greed) that plays out as a modern analogue to familiar science fiction/horror themes. Black Sheep also skewers naive animal rights activists, who, in an ironic twist, unleash the very dangers they're warning the world about. The two activists, Grant and Experience, are more comic relief than anything else, and given how broadly they’re portrayed and performed (minus the occasionally flat or tired joke, of course), it's easy to sit back, enjoy Black Sheep, and leave politics, right or left, out of the mix.

All in all, then, splatter enthusiasts will get a kick out of "Black Sheep." They’ll laugh, they’ll gasp, but the crying part in that formulation, not so much (if at all). They won't jump out of their seats too much either. Then again, "Black Sheep" is less about scares and more about gross-outs. Still, for all it’s got going for it, it’s unlikely horror fans will be able to forget the "The Evil Dead" trilogy, "Return of the Living Dead," or "Dead Alive" while watching "Black Sheep." "Black Sheep" may not belong in the splatterfest pantheon, but it comes close.

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originally posted: 05/03/07 14:36:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.

User Comments

9/28/08 Shaun Wallner Boring!! 1 stars
4/18/08 Big j retarded waste of my time ill never get back 1 stars
2/25/08 Mick Ash 1 stars
10/30/07 mike really really bad. i had difficulties finishing this horrible movie 1 stars
10/18/07 Kevin O'Brien It sheerly was a work of art,had me on the edge of my seat biting ma'aa nails!!! 5 stars
10/18/07 James O'Brien "One of the greatest films Ive ever seen 5 stars
10/14/07 neil didnt get it at all, waste of 9 euro 1 stars
9/23/07 Sheila Koffel Surprisingly good remake, but NO ONE will ever replace Chris Farley! 4 stars
8/25/07 jami mercer best friggin film i've ever seen!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/08/07 DonnyM Laughing at a lot of Sheep Shinanagins! 5 stars
6/26/07 Theo amazing men-sheep 5 stars
4/01/07 Reece Utter hilarity. Brilliant. 5 stars
9/16/06 dave elsey Fucking cool 5 stars
8/30/06 Bob A revolution in film making. 5 stars
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  22-Jun-2007 (R)



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