Black Sheep (2006 Jonathan King)

Black Sheep

A New Zealand horror comedy riffing on American Werewolf in London, but transposed to an NZ sheep farm for extra silliness. I recall seeing the trailer for this at a cinema and laughing quite a lot but, not getting the chance to see it at the time, I waited until the DVD came out and snapped it up cheaply. Since then, a couple of people told me it was pretty bad so I wasn’t at all sure I’d like it.

It starts off with one of the most absurd and outrageous backstory setups imaginable, as one brother traumatises another with a sheep-themed evil prank, made worse by a terrible coincidence. Cut to present day and the traumatised Henry (Nathan Meister) is visiting his elder brother Alex (Peter Feeney) on the family farm, intending to sell up and put some ghosts to rest. In the meantime, two environmental activists, Experience (Danielle Mason) and Grant (Oliver Driver), are planning to break into the experimental breeding station Alex has set up and find out what secretive genetic nastiness he’s been conducting there.

It will hardly come as a surprise to anyone seeing this film that the environmentalists’ break-in goes awry and, as a result, the sheep turn nasty – effectively “were-sheep” – and no-one really need worry about spoilers, since everything is pretty much signposted from the off; there are precious few surprises here. But I really did enjoy this. Despite there being a fairly high ‘splatter count’, the film had a real sense of fun. There are clichés galore – the reluctant hero, the good woman who comes to love him, the sensible housekeeper who dispenses sage advice, the solid worker and childhood friend who assists the good fight, the mad and irresponsible scientist who ‘plays God’, the race against time before a local infection is spread worldwide, the last minute help arriving ‘unexpectedly’, and many more – but they’re all handled knowingly and playfully rather than cynically or crassly.

Also pleasing, the misanthropy and misogyny that is too often evident in horror seems utterly lacking here. Victims are not slaughtered or tortured to suit a political or moral agenda. There are villains and they get their comeuppance, of course, but the film doesn’t take its own ‘messages’, such as they are, at all seriously. It is, rather bizarrely, a really nice film.

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