Black Sheep is set in the idyllic countryside on a sheep farm in New Zealand featuring a farmer and his sons Henry and Angus Oldfield. Things soon turn nasty as Angus, jealous of his younger brother kills Henry’s pet sheep before tormenting him with the sheep’s still bloody skull. Moments after the boys then learn that their father has died in an unspecific farm accident. The film then fast forwards fifteen years and we again meet up with Henry, now an adult played by Nathan Meister (Avatar, The Adventures of Tintin), as he returns to his home farm. The incident witnessed at the opening of the film has left Henry with a pathological fear of sheep, something that is a large issue when visiting a sheep farm! Indeed, the first shot of the older Henry is him cowering in the back of a taxi surrounded by a flock of sheep. The older Angus, played by Peter Feeney (30 Days of Night) is still the same piece of work that scared his younger brother wearing a sheep’s head and is now running a laboratory experimenting on genetically modified sheep.
One of the genetically modified lambs, or rather sheep embryo in a test tube, is released by two hapless animal rights campaigners, Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason), which subsequently attacks Grant before moving onto the field of sheep nearby. Unfortunately for Grant it appears that the ‘mad sheep disease’ is not only communicable between sheep but also to humans, turning the human victim into a sheep. Living alongside Angus on the farm is Mrs Mac, who incidentally is the person who shares the bad news of their father’s death with the boys in the first scene, and Tucker (Tammy Davis). Whilst showing Henry the farm, Tucker and Henry come across Experience and with her the infected sheep. The film then follows the three of them as they battle the genetically modified sheep and search for a solution to the spreading problem.
As with all comedy films there are a number of unrealistic scenes (putting aside the premise of killer sheep), including a sheep driving a pick-up truck over the edge of a cliff and a scientist being attacked by sheep next to the offal pit where they dispose of the remains of their experiments. I think sheep lend themselves very well to this premise with their blank staring eyes meaning it is very hard to tell which sheep is infected and which is not until it attacks. The undeniable stars of the show are the demonic sheep, particularly the evil lamb that is responsible for the outbreak, created by Weta workshop who shot to fame after producing the special effects for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Black Sheep is a satisfying romp around the New Zealand countryside providing just the right balance of gore, laughs and plot. The one negative to this film is their representation of scientists as megalomaniacal psychopaths with no respect for either animal or human life. On the other hand, the writer and director Jonathan King (Under the Mountain, The Tattoist) is equally scathing of the animal rights protestors, portraying them as deluded hippies who spout long rhetoric spiels at the drop of a hat and carry around geranium candles to ‘balance their hormones’ so it is clear that King takes neither view particularly seriously. I definitely enjoyed Black Sheep and was surprised at the level of realism in the sheep (I was expecting something along the lines of The Deadly Bees.
Fun Fact: The scientific word for a phobia of sheep is ovinaphobia.