Black Sheep (US - DVD R1)
Scott McKenzie will order chicken rather than lamb next time he has a curry...
Traumatised by the death of his father fifteen years ago, Henry returns to the farm he grew up on to sell his share of his inheritance to Angus, his older brother. While Henry has been away, Angus has been working with scientists to produce the perfect sheep. However, when an attempt to expose the truth by a pair of environmentalists goes wrong, a genetically modified sheep escapes and starts to turn all the sheep on the farm against the humans.
There’s no way you could expect gritty socio-realism with a setup like that and I’m happy to report that Black Sheep is an incredibly silly movie. I’m happy to report it because it is obvious that everyone involved in making the movie took the idea to preposterous extremes. As a result, we have killer zombie sheep ripping the guts out of helpless bystanders, humans morphing into killer sheep and an endless number of throwaway gags like mint sauce being used as a weapon, which of course makes no sense whatsoever.
What separates Black Sheep from the never-ending slew of low budget horror movies that are foisted upon us is the surprisingly high quality of the production. Everything from the musical score to the excellent visual effects supplied by Weta Workshop betray the movie’s low budget roots. Yes, the men in gigantic sheep suits look like, well, men in gigantic sheep suits, but if you’re not prepared to abandon all good sense and go along for the ride, you’re missing the point. This is a movie that is designed to be great fun, with a cutting sense of humour and plenty of gore, and thoroughly deserves its comparisons to Peter Jackson’s early movies.
Comparisons can also be made with Peter Jackson’s latest movies because the director does a great job of showcasing the beautiful New Zealand countryside. The wide shots of our heroes walking up the rolling mountains aren’t really necessary to tell the story, but are another example of how this movie is better than it needs to be. The camera work in close-up has also been given great attention to detail and I’m sure sheep have never looked more evil ever before on film.
The quality of the acting is probably best described as ‘functional’. Nathan Meister, who plays Henry, does his best as a young man struggling to deal with a fear of sheep. But credit to writer/director, he explains his fear only with the line “because I knew one day this would happen!” rather than going into in-depth psychological analysis that would be unnecessary for this type of movie. The rest of the cast do exactly what is expected of them in a horror movie, although the female lead is interesting by the fact that’s she’s purposely very annoying to begin with. Unfortunately I thought the character of Tucker was a little underused as he pretty much disappears from the screen after the halfway point.
Black Sheep is a movie made by people who were firmly aware of its incredible stupidity, but that didn’t mean they devoted any less time or care to the project than it deserved. If you want a serious horror movie that’s going to scary you rigid, this probably isn’t the one for you, even though there are a few good scares to be had. What Black Sheep delivers is entertainment, and it does so in spades without overstaying its welcome.
Black Sheep is a good-looking movie and this transfer does it a fair amount of justice. The colours are a little muted and there is a small amount of edge enhancement but the picture is free from obvious dirt and grain. The black levels are pretty dark as well and all in all, I’d say the 2.35:1 anamorphic picture does a good job and probably does the New Zealand tourism commission a few favours in the process. The only problem I found was that in one dark chase scene, the handheld camera work made the action difficult to follow.
Music plays an important part in setting the tone in Black Sheep, moving quickly from epic, to creepy, to light-hearted in just a few moments. Horror filmmaking is about manipulating the feelings of the audience and the 5.1 track here does that very well, highlighting the score but also exaggerating certain sound effects like the squelch of gore in much the same way Peter Jackson did in Bad Taste and Braindead. The surround speakers get a good workout too, especially during a scene where our heroes are trapped in a house with thousands of infected sheep bleating outside.
We’re promised a ‘surprise’ scene shot exclusively for this DVD, however it’s only thirty seconds long and deserves to be part of the blooper reel rather than as a separate extra feature. The theatrical trailer is thrown in and the disc opens with skippable trailers for 1408, Broken, Hallowed Ground and You Kill Me. The five deleted scenes are short but are provided with optional commentary from Jonathan King and Nathan Meister.
‘The Making of Black Sheep’ is a decent thirty-one minute featurette that includes interviews with the cast and crew and mainly focuses on the special effects work by Weta Workshop. The filmmakers didn’t have the budget for digital effects but as it turned out, the practical effects were more effective and appropriate to the type of movie they were making. Finally, King and Meister return for a commentary track where they go into more detail about the making of the movie and King, who drives the conversation, points out plenty on interesting facts along the way.
Black Sheep is very enjoyable and is definitely worthy of your time if you’re in the mood for a horror movie with a dark sense of humour. The list of extras is a little deceptive though, containing all the usual features but not really delivering much on half of them. However, this is an inventive low budget movie that I’m certain will be regarded as a cult favourite so I recommend checking it out now before everyone jumps on the bandwagon.
Review by Scott McKenzie
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 9th October 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Feature Commentary, Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary, The Making Of Black Sheep, Blooper Reel, Early Morning (Surprise Scene Shot For DVD), Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jonathan King
Cast: Nathan Meister, Danielle Mason, Peter Feeney, Tammy Davis, Oliver Driver
Genre: Comedy and Horror
Length: 83 minutes
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