It was only a matter of time before an enterprising New Zealand filmmaker made a horror movie about sheep. It’s surprising it’s taken this long for one to reach the big screen, and more surprising still, given the inherent low horror factor of lamb (outside of a late-night kebab), that Black Sheep proves to be a visceral chiller as well as a smart black comedy.
First time writer-director Jonathan King locates the action on a sheep farm in the lush green Wairarapa region of NZ’s north island, and there sets up a tempestuous Cain and Abel relationship between the late owner’s sons Nathan and Angus. As the film opens, the younger, unfortunately sheep-phobic Nathan returns home from Wellington to sell his share of the farm to his older, sheep-shagging brother Angus, whose ruthless business streak has lead to him secretly genetically modifying his livestock. When a pair of new age animal activists break into the farm and steal some genetic waste it’s not long before everyone’s being terrorised by herds of flesh-eating ovines and monstrous mutant sheep-human hybrids.
King piles on the blood and guts, and delivers some genuinely creepy evil sheep courtesy of world class New Zealand special effects house WETA (of The Lord of the Rings fame). But he underscores the gore with a fine line in subversive humour, taking shots at everything from modern farming practices to animal activism. And there’s a great series of jokes about NZ’s meaty export, including a priceless gag involving mint sauce.
General release, Fri 12 Oct.