Director Jonathan King stood up before the FrightFest screening of Black Sheep and started to say, “There’s been some confusion about what kind of film Black Sheep is, so let me clear that up,” and I barely had time to think if you need to tell us, your film probably doesn’t speak for itself before he finished with “it’s a documentary. It all really happened. New Zealand is a scary place, don’t ever go there.”
Touche, Mr King.
Black Sheep is, at heart, your basic creature feature. Take some people, put them in an isolated location, and chuck in a monster to terrify them. But Black Sheep does it really, really well.
The main character is a farmer’s son who, after being terrified with a sheep carcass at a young age by his older brother, has a phobia of sheep. He moved to the city, but for the sake of the movie, has returned to his home to settle the score with his brother.
Unfortunately, during his absence, his brother has gone a bit loopy and has started genetically engineering sheep. And because these things always go wrong, this goes wrong: some animal rights campaigners break into the facilities, steal some highly dangerous toxic waste, and before you know what’s hit you, the sheep have turned evil and anyone they bite turns into a sheep, too.
King has cited American Werewolf in London as a reference for this movie, and though Black Sheep also owes a little something to Peter Jackson’s early movies, the American Werewolf comparison stands up – Black Sheep is funny, scary, and gory, but it does it without that painful, post-modern obsession with winking at the audience in every other scene. Instead, it’s just a really good movie.
The transformation scene that directly references American Werewolf is awesome, too.
A sheep may not be an obviously scary animal, but somehow, Black Sheep pulls it off. There are some properly menacing moments in this film – as well as, of course, a ton of madcap humour, most prominently a scene where a sheep ends up driving a truck. The characterisation is spot on, the acting is great, and the prosthetics – the prosthetics are amazing. There’s no CGI here; it’s all done the old-fashioned way, and it looks great as a result. I honestly can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema and enjoyed a film this much.