Black Sheep (2006)

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Black Sheep is a New Zealand horror/comedy film that answers a question nobody asks: what if there was a zombie movie where the zombies were replaced with sheep? As a result, Black Sheep is a horror/comedy full of crude, ridiculously silly humor, but a distinct lack of horror elements. It’s a film that doesn’t take the medium of cinema seriously, and instead, Black Sheep rejoices in it’s stupidly silly premise. It’s a film reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, albeit with an agricultural twist, which takes the the piss out of as many culturally relevant topics as it possibly can.

However, upon watching the film, Black Sheep has had more effort put into than one would initially believe upon learning the silly premise. Black Sheep is a story chock full of identifiable and relatable characters, the film places a distinct emphasis on lovable heroes and hateable villains. The characters may not be very deep, or even three dimensional, but they’re definitely better than one note punchlines with no depth or quality. The writing behind Black Sheep pays close attention to character arcs and character development, thus creating characters who are entertaining, funny, enjoyably silly, yet quite empathetic in their own way as they develop throughout the plot. As I watched the film. I was with these characters every step of the way and I rallied behind them, wanting them to succeed. That’s not to say that Black Sheep is very well written, however, Black Sheep is a film that laces emphasis on nonsensical, crude humor. No farmer joke is out of bounds as the film incorporates jokes about bestiality, farts, genitalia, dumb vegans, dumb scientists,and dumb businessmen. Black Sheep is a film that couldn’t be further from politically correct as it feels like the film is trying to offend anybody and everybody. The film’s humor does feel lacking at points as a lot of the jokes just aren’t funny, but the film’s visual, slapstick humor makes up for the crudity of the film’s writing.

What is really commendable about Black Sheep, however, is the film’s outstanding special effects that were created by Weta Workshop- the special effects company behind The Lord Of The Rings, Hellboy Meet The Feebles and Braindead. The effects incorporated into Black Sheep are purposely low-fi: most of the mutant sheep faces are obvious rubber masks, and when the sheep attack, it’s glaringly evident that the sheep heads are nothing more than hand puppets. However, spread throughout the film are specific moments which allow Weta Workshop to show off their talents, such as ridiculously horrific scenes of mutilation when the sheep attack a group of corporate shills, and there’s even a sheep mutation scene near the end of the film that’s very reminiscent of the transformation scene from An American Werewolf In London, complete with stretching prosthesis and mechanical manipulation. By mixing low-fi effects with impressively high-grade effects, Black Sheep creates many memorable moments and shocking sequences that stand out amongst other scenes of dumb silliness. All in all, it’s quite evident that the film-makers behind Black Sheep are quite knowledgeable about the medium of film: they know when to shock and audience with blood, gore and body horror, and know when to let the humor settle in through dialogue, slapstick and the whole ridiculous notion of killer sheep.

Despite this, what stood out to be the most, and what I found to be most egregious about Black Sheep, is that fact that the film feels like agricultural propaganda. Black Sheep takes a very firm stance against ecological science, genetic engineering and vegan protesters. The film vilifies businessmen, scientists and protesters and it praises ‘classic’ farming techniques which are very rare in today’s world where genetic engineering is a must in order to keep up with the demand for store bought food and culinary practitioners. The film’s message is quite heavy handed and insulting to vegans, scientists and GM farmers overall. That being said, however, there’s no denying that Black Sheep is a very enjoyable film that’s fun to watch with a turned off brain and a stomach that can handle scenes of mutilation by mutant sheep. Black Sheep is a film that’s really stupid, but it’s a film that knows how to be really stupid without being terrible. Behind the scenes, the film knows what it’s doing in order to create an enjoyable cinematic experience, onscreen, however, there’s just something so stupidly fun about the idea of killer sheep. Although part of me does feel like the premise would be more suited for a short film rather than a feature film, I feel that Jonathan King and the team behind Weta Workshop pulled off a feature film about killer sheep quite well. In conclusion, I recommend that horror fans give Black Sheep a shot, it may not be as good as other, smarter horror comedies, but it’s a fun romp nonetheless.

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