Black Sheep Jonathan King

Black Sheep Jonathan King

Indebted to Peter Jackson’s early films like Bad Taste and Dead Alive, Black Sheep is a clever, gore-filled take on stereotypical Kiwi culture playing up the country’s biggest fear (besides being mistaken for Aussies): killer sheep. It may seem amusing, which it is, but in a small country of 40 million sheep it could be terrifying. Thankfully, first-time director King takes as much piss out of the circumstances as possible without delving into messy nonsense. Traumatised by a childhood stunt executed by his brother Angus, Henry returns home years later to sell his stake in the wealthy family sheep farm, which is now secretly experimenting on the creatures to develop a champion breed. Edgy around the woollen animals, Henry finds chaos quickly ensuing. People are viciously attacked and becoming zombie mutant hybrid monsters, leaving Henry and his friends to find a cure and stop the murderous mutton. Black Sheep balances horror and comedy with the style and substance of Shaun of the Dead, and despite more B-movie fodder, it’s almost as enjoyable. You’ll never hear "baaaa” without looking over your should again. The effects, which were done by the Weta Workshop (The Lord of the Rings), are virtuoso — the transitions from man to sheep do for today’s horror makeup what An American Werewolf in London did back in the early ’80s. Case in point is the mutant man-sheep (resembling Pan’s Labyrinth’s Fauno a little), which shows off their work best. The "making of” confronts the challenges in creating a film about turning the country’s national pride into killers, something the footage of operating the sheep — there were puppets and mechanical and real ones — confirms (the best bit is forcing a puppet sheep to rip out an actor’s jugular). Deleted scenes provide little but "Early Morning,” a cute DVD-exclusive gag, reveals that sheep enjoy a cup of tea just like the rest of us. Plus: commentary, blooper reel. (Alliance Films)