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Growing up on the family sheep farm was idyllic for smart, sensitive Harry Olfield, except for some knavish mischief from cocky brother Angus, until their dad has a fatal accident. Fifteen years later, Harry has finished sheep-phobia therapy and his ICT schooling and returns. Angus buys him out, all ready to present the genetically engineered Oldfield sheep he bred with a ruthless team. When environmentalist Grant steals a discarded embryo, which has sharp teeth, he gets bitten by it, and thus the first to be infected with predatory hunger and a mechanism that turns any mammal into a werewolf version. Running for the farm men, Grant's mate, student Experience, gets teamed up with Harry and his boorish but gentle pastoral youth friend Tucker. They must survive both the bloodthirsty sheep and their creators, who didn't realize this yet but dispose of an antidote. Written by
At first blush, it reads like an SNL skit that the writers decided not to use at the last minute. Murderous genetically-altered sheep on a rampage? Even Roger Corman never went there, and maybe it was for a reason...
And that reason was because writer/director Jonathan King needed to claim this baby for his own, and he has made the most of the opportunity. "Black Sheep" has that same kooky, OTT vibe of the mad scientist/monster flicks of the Fifties and Sixties with a more post-modern sensibility, much in the same affectionately twisted tone adapted by similar movies like "Tremors", "Feast", "Slither", the often-mentioned "Shaun of the Dead", and the film that this will be most compared to (and rightly so) - "Dead-Alive", the splat-tastic horror/comedy opus created by fellow Kiwi filmmaker gone "big time", Peter Jackson.
The plot is classic creepfest kitsch with a New Zealand transplant. Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) has been terrified of sheep for most of his life, the result of a horrific prank played on him in childhood by his crippled, bitter brother, Angus (Peter Feeney). Fifteen years later, Henry has gone back Down Under to tend to unfinished business - meaning facing his fears and selling off his half of the family sheep farm to his brother.
Meantime, Angus has concentrated on increasing the fortunes and finances of the family business by turning it over to a disgraced geneticist (Tandi Wright) for whom the farm has become one big test tube. Hippie activists Experience (Danielle Mason) and her sometime boyfriend, Grant (Oliver Driver) are out to expose Angus's subsidized experiments for the crimes against nature and ecology that they are. But as well-intended as their efforts are, everyone knows how true the old saying is about the best-laid plans...
Not surprisingly, the success of the entire film lies in the engaging cast, the goofy-yet-solid script, the beautiful cinematography, but most of all in the practical on-set and visual effects provided by Peter Jackson's own WETA Workshop and WETA Digital companies. And all quarters deliver fabulously, resulting in a great, loopy time at the movies that will have you giggling, gasping or gagging, sometimes all three simultaneously.
With the right frame of mind, I think that most horror fans or just casual viewers who like the occasional off-beat entertainment should find something to like here. Everyone else can just revisit the Merchant-Ivory section of the video store and steer clear.
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