Black Sheep (2006)
And lo, death came rolling into town, and his fleece was white as snow. First thing you think of when you hear Black Sheep is probably that Chris Farley movie, and I wouldn’t blame you. Tonight though, we are talking about a little picture out of New Zealand, who thought “we need an awesome horror movie that says New Zealand, let’s make a sheep monster movie.” With only two things on the line - killer sheep and a fun accent - I can’t see where this one would go bad. I’ll be honest though, I have to intentionally restrain myself from all the sheep puns or we’ll never make it through the review, let alone the movie! Tonight we grab our shears and hope for the best, let’s roll Black Sheep.
The concept is novel - killer animals that usually aren’t that threatening. It’s a story done again and again, and as long as unassuming creatures can be giant-sized, agressive-ized, or otherwise tapped for monstrosities it’s a market that will never end. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that we had just watched a movie about over-sized killer rabbits rolling through town. Beyond that, most would have at least known of the existence of The Birds. Oddly enough, this one even follows another classic stereotype of the batch - genetic tampering. This isn’t a movie that strode out to reinvent the wheel, this is a movie that knew what it was and just went with it. Honestly, most shouldn’t even need to go past the pitch to know if they’ll like the movie - killer sheep? If that sounds good then you are already a foot in the door for party time. Heck, we even have that whole environmentalists versus the evil science in this thing - but it wears it’s weird genre boots with pride.
Where a lot of the difference will be is in the accent - personally, over the years I’ve really been throwing a wider and wider net to include foreign movies when they become available for that specific reason. There something about an accent that isn’t your own that, even when it might be the same language coming out, just can really add a whole new fun factor to the experience. With that comes slang and particular mannerisms that could be lost in translation, but I like to chalk that up as part of the charm of it - on the flip side of that, there are those who might hate or have a hard time with accents in movies, and that could color their enjoyment to some extent. The lines generally come through clear - it’s all balanced well - but every now and then you might question if you heard something simply because you aren’t familiar with what got said in the first place.
The deliveries carrying those lines aren’t bad. I mean, nothing in this movie told me I should take it that seriously, but when an actor needs to pop out a serious (for the character) line, they do it with a straight face. The eco-garble from the female lead in particular was an impressive string of - to me - gibberish that I’m not entirely sure how she didn’t run out of breath spitting out, let alone not crack up every time. Of course, the entire concept of killer sheep could also be a bit funny, so the amount of joking around in the movie seems quite fitting for the character situations even though the movie is a bit comedy, much like Shaun of the Dead keeps humor without going against itself. There are plenty of hammy scenes where the characters are acting over the top though - don’t let me make it seem like this movie is some kind of high-brow stage play of a movie. The “evil scientist” lady in particular plays it to high heaven and is one maniacal laugh away from full blown cartoon.
Jokes are hit or miss, depending on the person as always. I got some chuckles in, and had the general good mood vibe from the movie, but certainly wasn’t rolling across the floor as my sides left the building. There’s some good jokes in there, there some cheap jokes in there, and there some farts - all of which usually got at least a “heh” out of me, but will get varied mileage depending on the viewers own sensitivities. One of the bits at the end had me going “okay, didn’t really need that,” but fair is fair. As mentioned briefly before, the jokes also fit into the movie fine without feeling like the movie had to be written around them. Yes, some of those make the characters feel a bit over-exaggerated, but with the character being such it in turn makes it feel fitting regardless. Despite that good humor and levity though, the movie isn’t all comedy.
It’s also part horror - and my particular cup of tea, monster creature feature horror. We’ve got killer sheeps, yes, but they didn’t stop there. No, they decided they wanted to go further and create sheep=people. Were-sheep, or sheepsquatches if you will. It’s all hand waived with genetic science fiction speak, as horror is wont to do, but I’m not complaining because the more monsters the merrier - and it also means that every kill isn’t just a sheep or sheep puppet. Although largely it is hard to be actually frightened for the events on screen, when it’s a bunch of killer sheep, they do some nice tension scenes here or there, and make some good use of darkness when it falls later on. Unfortunately, some of those scenes - particularly the ones involving were-sheep - are somewhat rapid-fire cut that can detract from the enjoyment. It’s not that they didn’t intend to do it - you can see they wanted it to feel chaotic and confusing, but rather that it’s still not super great fun to watch a bunch of rapid cuts in a dark area dozens of gates and walls. Perhaps it was to work around limitations of the suits, but largely I’m still sticking with it feeling like they just wanted the screen to emulate chaos and panic for the viewer.
And while speaking of giant sheep beasts, this would be a good time to chime in on the excellent effects done by WETA. Yeah, you know them from other movies and elsewhere I’m sure, but they did this one too. The various gore shots are pretty good, or I guess you could say gross if you aren’t particularly into them. There’s a few graphic dead sheep, and plenty of zombie-grade bite and tear moments from sheep as the movie gets rolling. By the time things hit their high point, it’s one part zombie movie and part people throwing wool-covered sheep substitutes at people from off screen. The up close puppetry is also quite nice, both on the sheep and sheeple - that’s sheep people if you will. The various levels of transformations also look real nice, and honestly there’s only a few moments where any given effect will really take you out of the movie at all. Most anything helped by CG isn’t a big downer, and at times the only reason you’ll even know is if you watched a making of segment. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the lovely countryside of New Zealand, as they specifically call out at least twice during the movie.
Black Sheep is a good time. It’s as dumb as the title sounds, but in such a fun monster way that it’s always giving you something to enjoy. Sure, that enjoyment can vary, and will certainly have a large range on this one by person. Jokes about farting sheep, people being dumb, all the way down to banging sheep could cause quite the divide, and that’s before you get to the zombie-grade gory kill scenes. I had a fun time with it, but I might as well live in a wheel I dwell in cheese so much. Want a violent dumb accent-laden fun time for an hour and a half? This might be up your alley. Totally doesn’t sound like your jam? No fleece of my back.