Black Sheep (2006, Jonathan King)

Black Sheep plays like a more discreet, larger budgeted young Peter Jackson. Less ambitious too (I’m thinking of Braindead as the comparison). Both Jackson and King are New Zealanders and so on. Weta, who works with Hollywood Peter Jackson, did the effects for Black Sheep, turning in–besides the gore–were-sheep transformations with heavy American Werewolf in London overtones. And an Innerspace homage (or rip)… whichever, it’s always nice to see something familiar one has to think about for a few minutes to get the reference.

The movie is part zombie, part werewolf, part Jurassic Park. There’s the people’s story, of course, about brothers squabbling about the family sheep farm–with a flaky animal rights activist and genetic experimentation thrown in (one’s to provide the romantic interest, the other covers the rational explanation). Lots of gore–everyone commented on the intestines–unfortunately, King’s just doing it to play for his intestine-seeking audience, not because the movie needs the violence. Actually, without any of the gore, without any of the obvious shots of the blood-thirsty sheep, the movie would have been a lot more effective. And funnier.

The actors are all good, particularly Nathan Meister as the lead. He’s got the biggest arc and handles it well. Glenis Levestam as the housekeeper also has a good time.

It’s kind of decent, but mostly not. One problem is with King as a director. He’s nothing special. He uses the New Zealand landscape beautifully, but it appears to be wonderful for location shooting, so he didn’t really accomplish anything. And he really doesn’t get comedy (he tries, in the script, so hard with Danielle Mason’s hippie, the jokes are old five minutes after she’s with Meister and King keeps them up another forty minutes).

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jonathan King; director of photography, Richard Bluck; edited by Chris Plummer; music by Victoria Kelly; production designer, Kim Sinclair; produced by Philippa Campbell; released by New Zealand Film Commission.

Starring Nathan Meister (Henry Oldfield), Danielle Mason (Experience), Peter Feeney (Angus Oldfield), Tammy Davis (Tucker), Oliver Driver (Grant), Glenis Levestam (Mrs. Mac) and Tandi Wright (Doctor Rush).


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