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I've known about this film for quite a while, I read some good reviews for it when it premiered at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. I've been wanting to see it since then, but it being a small New Zealand flick, it played nowhere near me. When it was released on DVD, our local Blockbuster only had two copies, so it took a few weeks for me to luck into getting it. Let me tell you, it was well worth the wait!

Horror-comedy is my favorite genre, it's also the toughest to pull of. You need the right amount of each for it to work well. Black Sheep gets that mix exactly right. It's incredibly gory, and fairly suspenseful and scary in a few sections, but it's also downright hilarious through the whole thing. I admit that my humor runs pretty dark, I was probably laughing at more than most would; like the way the characters land in a pile of human remains. But there are some brilliantly humorous scenes, that I believe almost anybody would find funny; at least those that would want to rent a flick like this.

My favorite comedy bit of the year is from this film. The characters are just discovering that the sheep have turned and they're escaping in their truck, a sheep attacks the guy who is driving and he's trying to keep the truck on the road, while also keeping this mutant sheep at bay, punching and kicking him in the head. Finally he bales out of the truck, right before it goes over the cliff and there's a quick shot of the sheep sitting up behind the wheel and his facial expression as he drives off the cliff is priceless.

The film starts with our hero being traumatized by his older brother, he kills the young boy's favorite sheep, and attacks him while wearing the sheep's bloody coat. Soon after they learn their dad's died. Cut to twenty years later and the young man now has a sheep phobia, he's on his way back to the family farm for the first time in many years, to sell his half to his older brother. Unbeknownst to him, his brother has been experimenting on the sheep, and of course that can only lead to one thing, killer, mutant sheep.

Meanwhile, a couple of tree-huggers have snuck onto the ranch to liberate some of these experiments. The guy gets bit by the nasty little thing, and starts to change into something worse than the sheep, a were-sheep! The girl escapes and runs into the hero and one of his old buddies, that's when the sheep-shit hits the fan. Stuck in the middle of their huge ranch, with no truck and no cell service, surrounded by thousands of mutating sheep, they must find a way to survive and warn everybody.

Right from the start, the filmmakers realized that the whole idea of killer sheep is so ridiculous that they set the film up to be a comedy. Even the characters within the film treat the idea as absurd, trying not to believe it, even while their lives are put at stake numerous times.

So while you're laughing at the situations, you also have to treat them somewhat seriously because the mutant sheep look so believable. Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop, did a wonderful job of building the sheep, through a combination of make-up and puppets, wisely keeping the digital effects to a minimum. I think that digital monsters still don't work, that when an actor has something to physically get into trouble with, it sells the fear far better.

Writer/Director Jonathan King is a fabulous new talent. He makes the crazy idea mutant sheep work and keeps the tone of the film just right throughout the entire film. He gets good performances out of his actors, when the film's premise and tone makes it tough. He's got a great eye for how to shoot a horror film. Everything in this film is far better made than you would ever think possible. If it weren't Shaun of the Dead, I'd call this the best horror-comedy of the decade; it's right there on the same level. Make sure to see this film!

1 Response to Black Sheep:

  1. Nice blog!! good Criticism!

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