Back in the 80s and 90s, these sorts of films used to be made in droves. A nasty little sub-genre of horror called “splatstick”, which combined splatter-punk with old school comedy a la the Three Stooges. Sam Raimi brought this kind of flick to the forefront with his classic Evil Dead films, but another king of this genre was future Hobbit wrangler Peter Jackson with flicks such as “Meet the Feebles” and “Braindead.”
Black Sheep is an attempt to step back into that golden age, one with tangible links to Jackson thanks to some amazing FX from WETA. It’s more or less successful at recreating the fun vibe of those flicks. Jam -packed with zombie sheep, fetal sheep, and even were-sheep. Needless to say, you’ll never look at lamb chops the same way again.
The plot follows a pair of brothers who co-own the family sheep farm. The younger brother Henry (Nathan Meister) is sheep-phobic and has spent 15 years away from his home. Henry returns home to try and sell his share of the farm to his sadistic older brother Angus (Peter Feeney). The only problem is that Angus bred a mutant breed of sheep that craves human flesh. So of course some well-meaning but comical animal rights activists have to accidentally let this horror loose.
Black Sheep works best when it wears its heart on its bloodstained sleeve. Playing more like a twisted family drama than a horror film,Meister and Feeney do a credible job as the two brothers, with Feeney doing much of the heavy lifting, making such an outrageous character seem believable. The relationship between the two brothers reminds me a lot of something you’d see in a southern gothic novel or film – it’s competitive and quasi-incestuous, which of course makes it both funny and creepy. Especially since Henry comes off like the wide-eyed innocent for much of the film.
Unfortunately, when it goes into all out comedy mode, many of the jokes fall completely flat, and there’s plenty of stuff you’ve seen before. Plus, they seem to think you should laugh simply because they’ve transformed sheep into monsters.
It must be said that the sheep themselves are nothing short of astounding, at times very hard to tell between the real sheep and the mechanical ones. The aforementioned were-sheep are also visually impressive, being both grotesque and humorous at the same time. I’d very much like to see what WETA could do with a traditional werewolf film.
Like many of the other films I’ve review for this site, this isn’t a flick for everyone. Fans of stone-faced horror won’t get much out of it, and comedy fans will likely get grossed out. But for the noble few that love some yucks with their screams… they’ll find an imperfect gem of a movie. Something more than worth multiple viewings.