Black Sheep


Some movies were just made to be trailers. I linked to the spoof Minesweeper trailer on this site the other day, but unsurprisingly I would have no interest in seeing the full version, if it happened to exist. When I saw the trailer for Black Sheep, I thought there was actually a good comedy/horror/splatter kind of film behind it. But it turns out, the wool had been pulled over my eyes.[ftn] Not only are all the best jokes from the film in the trailer, but some of them are actually better presented in the trailer.

Which isn’t to say that Black Sheep is awful. When it’s going crazy-gore violent, it’s frequently hilarious. But unlike its fondly remembered ancestor, Brain Dead, which continually escalated both the violence and the ridiculous, we alternate instead between periods of ridiculous bloodiness and periods of blandly running about to the next set-piece.

The plot is reasonably straight forward. Once upon a time, there was a man who had a farm. He had two sons. Henry (Nathan Meister) was nice, and talented at farming. Angus (Peter Feeney) was a borderline psychopath who killed his brother’s pet sheep once, and wore its skin whilst attacking said brother. When we flash forward to their adulthood, it may come as something of a shock to learn that the evil brother has stayed somewhat evil, whilst our hero Henry has become somewhat terrified of sheep — a character note which leads to some of the best jokes of the film. Angus, who in his spare time represents evil technology and progress, has been genetically modifying the perfect sheep. And has as a side effect produced a peculiar new breed of bovine killing machines.

Henry and his friends are quite endearing characters for the most part, and New Zealand of course never fails to be beautiful. The real strengths of the film, however, are the sheep. I’ve often been amazed in the past by the stupid expression you see on the faces of livestock at farms.[ftn] This gormless stare is used to great effect in Black Sheep. When the film manages to get perfectly normal, digitally unaltered sheep to be hilariously threatening, that’s when it approaches wonderfulness. Seven or eight sheep peering curiously down a dark hole shouldn’t be scary.

However, while the film manages note-perfect humour sometimes, just as frequently it provides really lame jokes at the expense of the cute hippy, Experience (Danielle Mason), which rarely rise above a schoolyard level of “aren’t animal rights protesters dopey?” The film works better when it’s playing her a little straighter; one of her nicest scenes is when she manages to talk Henry through walking amidst a group of sheep without fear. Their relationship benefits from moments like this, but ends up being a little shallow and baanal.[ftn]

Black Sheep isn’t as funny as it should be. It isn’t as crazy as it should be. The characters start off quite weird, but in a surprise twist, turn out to be kind of bland. It has all the trappings of a fantastic horror/comedy, but never really gains a solid narrative or an interesting story. In short, it’s average where it could have been awesome. But it does have killer sheep, and let’s face it — you can’t get those just anywhere these days.


  1. Heh heh.
  2. Though I’m sure that they’re really very clever and it’s all a cunning ploy to get us to eat them. For some reason.
  3. I was going to fill this whole review with bad sheep puns, but then I had a moment of sanity. Ewe should be grateful.
You're a tree. — Experience

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