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Black Sheep

Year: 2007
Production Co: Live Stock Films
Director: Jonathan King
Writer: Jonathan King
Cast: Nathan Meister, Danielle Mason, Peter Feeney
Hear the one about the kiwi bloke and the ewe?

Who hasn't. Black Sheep writer/director Jonathan King - along with every other born and bred New Zealander - is so aware of it he couldn't make a comedy about sheep in rural New Zealand and not write in one sheep-shagging joke, oblique though it is.

It may not immediately seem at home in a horror film, but Black Sheep is no ordinary horror film. We've seen zombies, sharks, werewolves and even androids tear hapless victims limb from limb, but this is the first film to contain mass disembowelling by ovine farm animal.

So as you've probably guessed, Black Sheep is a comedy-horror. Unlike a lot of comic films where the characters are only too ready to nudge and wink at the audience, Black Sheep takes a refreshing tack. In the finest tradition of the Zucker brothers' Flying High, Top Secret and other classic early spoof comedies, King has his cast play it completely straight. Black Sheep is at times a surprisingly scary film, but mostly the comedy is gleefully mined from the ridiculous premise and the characters in it.

Its sounds like a one-joke comedy that goes on way too long and yes, there are a few inevitable lags once the joke 'begins', but Black Sheep is an inventive film that's easy to like. When city slicker Henry (Meister) returns to the farm of his childhood to claim his share of the property from his brother Angus (Feeney), his phobia of sheep threatens to overwhelm him and he only wants to get his cheque and leave.

Unbeknown to all but a small group of scientists, Angus has started bizarre genetic mutation research, and when a pair of trespassing hippies, Grant and Experience (Mason) accidentally release a carnivorous, mutated lamb from a toxic waste jar in one of the movie's funniest scenes, all hell breaks loose as the mutation gets out. It turns anybody infected or bitten into the fearsome were-sheep (yes they sound ridiculous but believe it or not provide many of the film's genuine scares) and turns the sheep themselves into hungry, angry, bloodthirsty monsters.

Worse still, Angus is bringing a group of potential investors to the property to reveal what's supposed to be his pride and joy (and the butt of the sheep shagging joke). It's a recipe for disaster as Henry and Experience team up with ranch hand Tucker (Davis) and have to try to make it back to the house alive, the countryside roaming with crazed, woolly killers. But nastier surprises await them at the house and scientific bunker that's home to Angus' eggheads and their terrible secret.

It's all great fun, lots of laughs and thanks to taut direction and editing and not dwelling too long on any one joke, Black Sheep doesn't overstay it's welcome as much as you fear it might.

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