Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Black Sheep

BLACK SHEEP (2006, dir. Jonathan King)
Review By Goat Scrote
This ridiculously gory splatter flick is my all-time favorite killer animal movie. It’s a funny, scary, blood-soaked journey through the world of sheep-farming, New-Zealand-style. There are ten sheep in New Zealand for each human, so sheep rebellion would be very baa-aah-ad! Sorry, had to get that out of my system right away. “Black Sheep” is very much in the style of early Peter Jackson gross-out horror-comedy (“splatstick”) with deliriously fun effects by Jackson’s WETA Workshop. It’s all latex and puppets and makeup and slime, and almost entirely CGI-free. The movie freely borrows elements from werewolf and zombie movies, and isn’t at all shy about showing off its influences. There’s at least one scene that directly references the granddaddy of all animal-attack horror movies, “The Birds”, and a climactic transformation sequence that’s a tribute to “An American Werewolf in London”.
this is my RAPE FACE!
   The main character in this whole affair is Henry Oldfield, who grew up on a rural sheep farm. Henry's older brother Angus blossomed into creep-hood at a young age. He axe-murders Henry’s prized sheep Dudley and wears pieces of the carcass to terrorize his kid brother. This charming family moment is interrupted by the news that their father has died in an accident. Cut to fifteen years later, and grown-up Henry (Nathan Meister) is a serious neurotic with a crippling phobia of sheep. He has returned home because “my therapist told me to” and because Angus (Peter Feeney), who has grown up into an oily jerk, is buying out Henry’s share of the family farm.

Leatherface: The Early Years

   Meanwhile, radical activists "liberate" some biological waste from a lab which is performing genetic engineering experiments on animals. "This isn't going to turn out like the salmon farm, is it Grant?" asks the earnest idealist, Experience (Danielle Mason). "Hey! Those fish died free," goony eco-saboteur Grant (Oliver Driver) replies. The waste canister turns out to contain a lamb fetus pickled in green goo. When spectacularly clumsy Grant breaks the container, the fetus turns out to be very much alive, and... carnivorous!!! Grant gets a chunk taken out of his face but manages to escape. He wanders the countryside, delirious and gradually transforming into a wooly-soft were-sheep with an uncontrollable hunger for raw flesh. His natural human urge to eat the heads off chocolate bunnies is perverted into the urge to eat the bloody wriggling heads off real bunnies. The nasty little mutant fetus escapes too, and when it meets another sheep and bites it on the nose the contagion starts to spread rapidly through the livestock.

you bawl like the baby in Eraserhead

   Experience encounters Henry and his friend Tucker (Tammy Davis), a good-natured New Zealand country boy, in the woods. At first she thinks they have something to do with the lab and holds them at gunpoint… the scene where Tucker tricks Experience into returning his rifle cracks me up every time, they play it so perfectly. The mismatched trio soon meets a killer sheep and a human victim. The very talented Tucker fistfights a killer sheep while driving a truck at the same time, but gets his foot chomped on. The human passengers abandon ship when the sheep carjacker drives their truck off a cliff. They have to trek across the beautiful, rolling, sheep-covered hills on foot now…. Or on hoof, in poor Tucker’s case, as he has already begun to change! Elsewhere, Angus has a run-in with the rapidly-mutating ex-vegetarian Grant, and receives the bite of the were-sheep as well.

which way to the Furry convention?

   It’s revealed that Angus is responsible for all this reckless genetic tampering, so Henry, Experience, and Tucker investigate the lab directly. They find hideously sadistic experiments in progress. Angus and his pet scientists get their hands on Tucker to study the effects of the sheep bite. Experience and Henry make a run for it and are driven by a horde of mutant sheep into a gruesome offal pit, full of sheep guts and nice things like that. Luckily there is a network of catacombs under the farm that allows them to escape, and they discover that the mutant sheep have a weakness to fire… they go up like tinder! If you’ve ever been around them you may have discovered that sheep are actually quite difficult to ignite, but mad-science sheep? All bets are off when you fuck with Mother Nature, I guess! Back at the farm, Henry and Experience have a brief encounter with Grant when they follow the sound of shears and discover a towering fluffy brute of a were-sheep, grooming himself. (Best. Fursuit. Ever. Actually, it’s a giant puppet operated by a handful of people, but the giant carnivorous sheep-monster would still make a great Halloween costume.) 
   Angus goes ahead with his press conference and unveils the product he and his scientists have been working on, a superior breed of sheep. The bleating of the gengineered ewe calls a horde of killer sheep which sweep down out of the hills in a frenzy and rip everyone to pieces. This is the bloodiest sequence in the movie as the sheep mangle, munch, and mutilate their way through the crowd in gruesomely entertaining ways. They don’t bother Angus, however… he is becoming one of them. The cold-blooded head scientist, Dr. Rush (Tandi Wright) makes a cure out of sheep amniotic fluid that reverses Tucker’s transformation. On her way to deliver the cure to Angus, she gets munched by her own science projects.
I wanna hold your hoof

   Henry and Patience are rescued by kindly old Mrs. Mac (Glenis Levestam), who seems to adapt pretty well to apocalyptic conditions. The Grant-monster comes crashing into the kitchen and the heroes discover another weakness… mint sauce burns the mutant sheep like holy water. Ha! Experience uses her knowledge of acupressure to take down Grant without hurting him, sort of the hippie version of the Vulcan nerve pinch. The farmhouse is surrounded by a horde of sheep, with several nods to “Night of the Living Dead”. Angus and his prize genetically-engineered ewe are also in the house, and it becomes obvious that the two share a very… intimate… relationship. In fact, Angus’s DNA was merged with that of a sheep to create the new strain, including his special lady, which means it’s incest too!

I eat organic, free range human. it's more ethical.
   The survivors are way too freaked out to cope with these family revelations, so they get the hell out. Henry is bitten in the scuffle and afterward he finally goes into hero mode -- or maybe it’s just that mutant-sheep aggression showing up early! Henry stays to stop Angus, while Experience and Mrs. Mac go on a sheep-killing spree with the farm truck and a shotgun. Henry wears a sheepskin to try to sneak through the flock and has to deal with an overly-romantic ram (who gets stabbed in the balls). The sheep don’t attack, though, as the contagion from the bite spreads through his system.

Fisting: you're doing it wrong!

   Angus is about to board his small plane and escape with his ewe, but his transformation accelerates before he can get airborne. Henry and were-sheep Angus face off, and the sheepdog helps Henry save the day by herding Angus into the propeller of his own plane. Even that isn’t enough to stop the big mutant brute, but Tucker shows up with a healthy supply of the antidote and regular-human-Angus isn’t quite as tough. The dog (the real hero of the film?) gets all of the mutant sheep corralled in a jiffy. Horribly-mangled Angus makes one more appearance and tries to rejoin his lady love, but he’s no longer recognized as part of the flock and gets his dick bitten off. The sheep are awfully, awfully gassy from all that rich human flesh they’ve been eating, so a little bit of fire ignites all the trapped methane and blows up the entire enclosure! The surviving sheep-people are gathered up and given the antidote, and everything seems neatly wrapped up in a tidy package… until the dog starts bleating like a sheep. Nooooo… what has science done!!


   While I’m on the subject of sheep movies, there’s another killer mutant man-sheep film out there (yes, really) called “Godmonster of Indian Flats”, which is mainly worth checking out for fans of MST3K-worthy super-cheesy sixties cinema (which was also directed by the same guy who directed Alabama's Ghost, ed). For a more high falutin’ brand of ovine cinema, I liked the unusual, understated documentary “Sweetgrass” (if you want a genuine picture of what it’s like driving sheep across Montana) and the surreal, satirical Buñuel oddity “The Exterminating Angel” (if you’ve always been curious what it’s like when your mind gets folded into the shape of a Klein bottle and, inexplicably, sheep start to pour out of it).

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic movie. A little gross at times, but that's all part of the fun...


    Nice review!!!


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