21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: Review

Black Sheep
Madeleine Collis

Never looking at sheep in quite the same way again is a by product of viewing "Black Sheep". A panoramic New Zealand set is the backdrop for this black comedy. The clichéd zombie infection plot with sheep as the affected masses is as ridiculous a plotline as you can imagine it would be. Yet writer and director Jonathan King take it many steps further. Infected leading characters Henry (Nathan Meister), Angus (Peter Feeny), and Grant (Oliver Driver), once bitten, actually transform into giant sheep.
In a mix between iffy acting and special effects these sections of the film are reminiscent of the bad 1980’s werewolf films. Here, instead of werewolves, the infected turn into human-sized, fuzzy, zombie sheep. With mangled hoof appendages and orange eyes. They are embellished with an abundance of fake blood splashed artistically over their huge toothed snouts.

The plot of the film has one time favourite son Henry returning to his deceased father’s 5th generation sheep farm now run by older brother Angus. Henry left the farm at the age of ten after his brother Angus, the villain of the film, tormented Henry and caused him to develop an intense phobia of sheep. The film picks up 15 years later when Henry returns to the farm for the first time in the hope of "moving on".

The film soon enters into its horror plotline as hippy activists Experience (Danielle Mason) and Grant (Driver) come onto the scene in hope of preventing the destruction of organic farming. Instead they manage to set free a test subject, a bottled foetus sheep from a dubious looking laboratory. Hence this leads to the mutated sheep of the film’s title.

These are blood loving sheep, not especially daunting, though it is a wonder they got animal protection agencies to agree to expose animals to the blood, guts and gore that run freely throughout the film. The overuse of internal organs on the outside of bodies very quickly de-sensitizes the audience. The gasps early on in the film as Grant’s ear is bitten off by the escaped mutant foetus sheep is one of the last times the audience reacts strongly to the horrific scenes. Too much blood and gore mean that although the horror scenes are comic the special effects are wasted later in the film.

The overall comedy of the plot is worn out in the title and opening scenes. Zombie sheep can only carry a film so far, the rest is done by the actors and Meister and Mason carry this well. The predictable script and running joke of sheep looking complacent whilst covered with blood fades into the background. The best bits come in the form of slight, understated jokes that come out of nowhere and yet set a standard of humour that the film never really seems to expand. The old jokes of standard zombie comedies are touched on and leave the viewer with a strong sense that the only difference between this comedy and "Shaun of the Dead" is the ever present sheep. Overall, it is not the finished effect King was probably looking for, though the film does offer sufficient weirdness to suite the alternative crowd whilst still offering just enough regurgitated zombie jokes to keep a commercial audience happy. A little tedious towards the end perhaps, but the oddness of the whole thing may just make up for that.
© Madeleine Collis November 2007



© Hackwriters 1999-2007 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.