An experiment in genetic engineering turns harmless sheep into blood-thirsty killers that terrorize a sprawling New Zealand farm. (IMDB synopsis)
Well, that’s enough body horror (for the moment, anyway). We move onto our next category, Comedy Horror. Before I address the film, a brief note. So far, many of the horror films I’ve looked at have contained elements of comedy. And that’s fine, I suppose – horror films need moments of levity sometimes to keep the audience on board. Also, horror and comedy have many parallels – they’re genres named after the effect that they produce, and a good set-up is essential for the delivery of both a joke AND a scare. I think, though, a comedy horror has to make the viewer laugh about as much as it makes them lean back from the screen and gibber.
And so I present… Black Sheep. I saw this DVD for the first time at a car boot sale in Shropshire. It was one of those shady-looking, probably cursed stalls filled with pirated DVDs in plastic wallets. Aged 14 at the time, I wasn’t allowed to buy a copy of the film, but I did wonder what I’d been missing out on. Now we shall see.
Think of a sheep joke. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably in this film.
In the first scene, two young boys are helping their father to round up a herd of sheep in their home country of New Zealand (…yup). The younger brother, Henry, is a natural, which prompts the older brother, Angus, to spring a cruel prank on Henry. This, unfortunately comes moments before the boys learn of the death of their father, and fifteen years later, the now ovinophobic Henry returns to sell his half of the farm to Angus and make peace with things. Naturally his taxi is surrounded by a few hundred sheep on the way there, heh heh.
Meanwhile, a pair of hippies, Grant and Experience, break into a nearby laboratory and steal a jar containing a genetically-engineered sheep, which escapes and chews poor Grant’s ear off. The Frankensheep then goes on to infect other healthy ewes, and, well, things pretty much escalate from there!
It’s clear from the off that this is not a film that takes itself seriously. You only have to look at the rabid, bloodthirsty sheep going about their ridiculous rampage. In one scene, they flow over the grassy hills in their hundreds, like the Hun army over the Chinese mountain range. In another scene, a group of them attack a geneticist in the same manner as Jurassic Park’s velociraptors! But it’s all good fun, and the effects aren’t bad either. There’s some over-the-top gore, such as a man trying to beat off an infected ewe by throwing his own severed leg at it, and a painful man-to-sheep transformation that I’m positive was inspired by An American Werewolf in London. Nice one!
The characters themselves are… OK. They’re amusing at times, but nothing special, and none of the spoken lines made me laugh out loud. As I already mentioned, they make every sheep joke you could possibly think of. They also do a good job setting up things that will come into play later on. There’s the Golden Shears award belonging to Henry’s father; the so-called offal pit; and at one point, Experience mentions that animal flatulence contains methane. This isn’t just a joke… it’s Chekov’s Gun! (Or should that be Chekov’s Fart?) Permit me to paraphrase: “One must never place a loaded sheep on the stage if it isn’t going to go off.”
I’d call this film funny in the same way that, say, Sister Act is funny. It has one thing to run with – in this case, sheep instead of nuns – and it does its best to work the film’s plot around that. And overall, it’s… fine! Just try not to think about the science side of it too much.
6 jam sandwiches.