June 21, 2007 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | Film | June 21, 2007 |


Too … much … goodness … can’t write.

Those on the other side of the world have already been privy to the deliciously magical messed-uppedness of Black Sheep, which is decidedly not a film starring David Spade and the late Chris Farley. For those on this side of the ocean unfamiliar with Black Sheep’s premise, I’ll put it simply: It’s a film about sheep. Killer sheep. Cute, adorable sheep that will eat off your face and snarl derisively at your pain.

It’s a beautiful sight, amidst the flood of gorn-no in the multiplex marketplace, to witness torn flesh in the manner it’s meant to be viewed — with irreverence, impeccable comic timing, and a sense of tongue-in-cheek awe not seen with this much flair since Ash Williams hung up his chainsaw limb in the Evil Dead series. Black Sheep is a throwback, not to the exploitation flicks that Planet Terror was meant to mimic, but to the era in horror flicks that came after it: Squeal porn. Movies meant to elicit half-laughs, half-squeals in shock-and-awe succession. It’s Attack of the Killer Tomatoes with sheep, or what Snakes on a Plane (Sheep on a Farm!) would’ve been if not for the deafening hype and a marketing campaign that pitched unintentional humor as intentionally unintentional, only Black Sheep carries with it an actual, real-life sense of humor. It’s jump-scare deadpan horror, an appropriate companion to Severance, and it is ridiculously fun.

Set in New Zealand, where the sheep actually outnumber the people, Jonathan King’s writing/directing debut concerns a man named Henry (Nathan Meister), who — as a wee lad — lost his father in an alleged falling accident on the family farm, though Henry suspects foul play. Fifteen years later, Henry returns to sell off his share of the farm and, on the recommendation of his therapist, sort out some pathological issues he has with sheep, or — you know — his “completely unfounded and irrational fear that one day this is gonna happen.” Henry’s evil brother, Angus (Peter Feeney) — who may or may not be an actual sheep-fucker — is running the farm. However, things have changed since Henry left. The farm, at the behest of Angus, now performs genetic experiments on the animals in an effort to develop and market the perfect sheep.

Meanwhile, a couple of humorless animal rights activists (or liberationists), Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason), have also entered the farm to cause a little mayhem. Grant, straightway, steals a container that’s meant to be disposed of — it turns out to hold a genetically deranged fetal sheep, which comes to life, sneaks up on his back like an unhinged sock puppet, and bites off his ear, suggesting very early on that Black Sheep is gonna be 17-kinds of wicked awesome.

After mangling Grant, the creepy creepy sheep fetus crawls up the meadow and bites an ewe, infecting it. Grant, too, is infected — he’s a little zany-maniacal now, rabidly ripping the skin off a rabbit with his teeth and morphing into freakin’ half-man/half-sheep faun. Or, one helluva strange breed of were-sheep.

Meanwhile, Henry has been sent back up the mountain to face his worst fears. There he meets Experience, who holds a shotgun to his head and refuses to laugh at lamb flatulence, which she gravely warns is contributing to greenhouse gases. Naturally, Henry is smitten. The two team up, and the sheep rampage begins — the man-eating wooly quadrupeds go Cujo ballistic, lambshit insane, as Black Sheep morphs into a monster of sheep-zombie flick — the attackees become the attackers as King unleashes the carnage.

As the absurdities mount, the joke wears slightly thin, though King mostly makes amends by increasing the levels of gore and maintaining an absolutely straight-face even as the narrative veers toward the over-the-top. There’s more blood than character and plot development, but thankfully, the film’s sense of humor is pitch black and outweighs everything else. Indeed, in a year’s time, Black Sheep may ultimately become the movie that Snakes on a Plane so very badly wanted to be: A cult-classic that’ll never go unrented at the local video store on a Friday night.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.

The Sheep are Revolting

Black Sheep / Dustin Rowles

Film | June 21, 2007 | Comments ()






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