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Black Sheep

A Tale of Good Sheep Gone BAAAAD!

40 million sheep reside in New Zealand. Fluffy, white, friendly sheep lope around beautiful green pastures without a care in the world. Well, there are the periodic sheerings, occasionally unfortunate shaggings, and the painfully necessary slaughterings. But, otherwise all is well in the sheep world.

That is until one overly ambitious sheep farmer; Angus Oldfield (Peter Feeney) sets his sights on creating an über-sheep via bizarre genetic experimentation -- a sheep to end all sheep. In Black Sheep Angus’s not so good intentions serve as a catalyst for an epic sheep uprising (think the sheep equivalent of Spartacus) that New Zealand will never forget.

Pitted against Angus’ megalomaniacal ambitions is his sheep fearing brother, Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister). Henry’s returned to his family owned/operated sheep farm, Glenolden Station, to claim his inheritance and hopefully exorcise his petrifying fear of sheep. Unlike his brother Angus, Henry’s opposed to the horrific genetic experiments being performed to enhance nature’s already perfect beast, the sheep.

The premise of the film is unarguably absurd. Neophyte New Zealand writer/director Jonathan King was bold in tackling this kind of subject matter for his first go round. But, far from treating this as a straight up horror film, King wisely plays the whole thing tongue-in-cheek.

It’s interesting to note that Black Sheep has a tone/feel that is not entirely dissimilar from Peter Jackson’s (yet another Kiwi writer/director) earlier work such as Dead Alive and Meet the Feebles. What is it with the Kiwis and their dark, twisted, sense of humor?

There are ample moments of gross out gore, usually involving rabid sheep leaping through the air and tearing out an unfortunate victim’s jugular. But, there is also ample dark, morbid humor throughout Black Sheep. If you can appreciate a film like Evil Dead (or Evil Dead 2), you won’t be disappointed by Black Sheep.

But, really…it’s hard not to laugh at the sight of sheep disemboweling unsuspecting humans, right? Well, if you’re Henry it’s not quite so amusing. Henry finds himself on the run from flocks of bloodthirsty sheep along with a farmhand and an animal right’s activist. Nathan Meister does a reasonable job as the sheep fearing Henry and one of the funniest moments of the film is a shot lifted directly from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as Henry quietly tries to walk carefully through a heavy flock of sheep.

However, it is Peter Feeney who nearly steals the show with his turn as Angus, a self absorbed, Machiavellian jerk bent on domination via the über-sheep. Within the first few minutes of meeting Angus, you can’t help but wish for his comeuppance. Fortunately, you won’t have to hold your breath too long. Angus’s asinine behavior comes back to bite him figuratively and literally.

What you have in Black Sheep is one of the better black comedy/horror films seen in quite some time. To truly appreciate a film like Black Sheep it helps to have a pretty strong stomach or a somewhat twisted sense of humor…preferably both. Jonathan King’s debut can be placed squarely in the pantheon of twisted humor/horror flicks like Dead Alive and Evil Dead. A word to the wise, tread lightly the next time you find yourself near a sheep lest something BAAAAAAD happens.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars