For a country with a relatively low population, New Zealand has an impressive horror heritage.
The birthplace of Peter Jackson (the Lord of the Rings films and many others) inspired him to create wacky, uber-gory horror films in the form of Bad Taste and Braindead.
Years later more critically acclaimed spooky laughs were to be had with What We Do in the Shadows, directed by half of the Flight of the Conchords.
And in 2006 someone had the genius idea to make a horror-comedy, set in New Zealand and set on the one thing they have an abundance of – sheep. In fact they have the highest density of sheep per unit area in the world. Makes sense then that something so omnipresent and seemingly harmless would make a great threat in a horror movie.
Black Sheep follows Henry Oldfield (Nick Fenton) a man who is haunted by shocking events from his childhood. As children, his brother Angus, fuelled by jealousy, used the bloody corpse of Henry’s favourite sheep to prank him, leading Henry to develop a phobia of them.
Flash forward to adulthood and the brothers still don’t get on. Henry reluctantly returns to the family home to sell his share of the family farm to Angus, but in the process discovers a sinister laboratory that his brother is using to genetically modify sheep, turning them into vicious carnivores. Worse still, he discovers that any human bitten by one of these chimeras is transformed into a half-human, half-sheep monster.
Things rapidly go downhill when a pair of environmentalists arrive and free the sheep, unaware of their mutant genes and ferocious temperament. Before long Henry is working alongside them and his friend Travis to prevent the flock from running wild and infecting every human it encounters.
Black Sheep is exactly what it professes to be, a small-budget film that delivers equal parts horror, comedy and gore.
Given when it was made, the influences of the era are clear. There are elements of Jackson’s splatter films with its unflinching flow of blood and brains. There are elements of Shaun of the Dead in the style of comedy and instantly likeable, unlikely protagonists. And once it gets going, it’s every bit as unrelenting as 28 Days Later (though not at all as serious as it).
The special effects are well delivered, thanks no doubt to the fact that they were produced by Weta Workshop (the team that went on to work with Jackson on his blockbuster releases, and many other impressive titles including Avatar).
In some ways, the plot is probably the weakest link, not helped by the fact that the release was very transparent that it would be a ‘killer sheep movie’.
Add to that the fact that the story is over-simplistic and the result is that it’s quickly obvious what will happen, and it’s just a matter of waiting for it to happen.
Though it may be a little too predictable, Black Sheep is still a fun film which will stay with you for years to come. How often do you see killer sheep after all?
Black Sheep is currently streaming on W4free. You can watch it for free here: bit.ly/3f7P3IN