Black Sheep (2007)

Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 03/22/07 12:49:40

"Fleece Is The Word"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: Hippies. It always starts with the damn hippies.

To be specific, it’s activists Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason) who are to blame. Their inadvertent liberation of genetic mutation leftovers from the Oldfield farm causes him to mutate into a freakish sheep-human hybrid and her to team up with the flock-fearing Henry (Matthew Chamberlain) as the entire sheep population of the island swiftly turns on any and all humans.

Knowing full well that the killer animal/zombie template has been played out more than enough for the viewer to know better, first-time writer/director Jonathan King keeps the pace thankfully brisk (the picture comes in at a lean 86 minutes) and nails that perfect campy tone that most fledgling filmmakers botch in similar territory. When it comes down to it, if it takes less than a reel for a single shot of a single sheep cresting a hill to become something chuckleworthy, you’re on the right track.

Those two elements, combined with adequate acting and superb practical creature effects by the renowned WETA Workshop, keep a one-note gag working much longer – and better – than it has any right to, allowing much slack for many a visual and verbal pun (mint sauce is an evil sheep’s holy water, natch) and the zanier gags of the climax (let’s just say that Henry’s sinister older brother really does love his sheep).

Also worthy of mention are Victoria Kelly’s buoyant score and Richard Bluck’s particularly pleasant cinematography, which helps provide an appropriate contrast to the carnage (if anything, it would take extra effort to make the New Zealand countryside seem anything less than gorgeous).

Low-budget horror comedies of late have been far too proud of their own farcical nature to enjoy, but King manages to make his blend of humor and horror appear both seamless and effortless, and that works wonders in his favor. Many midnight movies may seem destined to earn a cult audience, but I can comfortably say that the eagerly entertaining 'Black Sheep' is one of the few that actually deserves one.

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