Horror is easy to do, because everyone understands fear. Comedy is difficult to do, because sense of humor isn’t universal. Blending the two seems like a contradiction of genres, since it’s hard to be scared when you’re laughing. Yet, Black Sheep manages to do just that, finding the right recipe of scares, action, comedy and smart writing.
On a New Zealand farm, Angus and Henry Oldfield are the young sons of a sheep farmer. Henry has a pet sheep that Angus slaughters and uses its remains to traumatize Henry by menacing him with its remains. So when Henry (Nathan Meister) returns to the farm as an adult, he’s developed an irrational fear of sheep. Angus (Peter Feeney) has taken over the farm and wants to buy Henry out. Angus has genetically engineered a new strain of sheep and wants to make sure his brother doesn’t see any of the profits. Unfortunately, as with most mad science projects, things go awry. Two hippies, Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason) stumble upon the sheep laboratory and accidentally release one of the mutant, carnivorous sheep, whose bite turns its victims into more mutant, carnivorous sheep. Soon the farm is overrun with weresheep and it’s up to Henry and his newfound allies to survive.
The majority of the suspense in Black Sheep is really unintended. That’s because most of the suspense comes from waiting for the current scene to suck somehow. The premise is so wonky, that it’ll take longer than normal to willingly suspend your disbelief. Meanwhile, the acting will probably be scrutinized overmuch as you wait for the actors to take the plot too seriously or not be committed enough. Basically, you’ll be waiting for the movie to suck, but it never happens. This is a very strong cast and they have the acting chops to make the scenes work. It’s obvious from the early scene with Henry writhing in fear in the back of a taxi as a herd of sheep surround the car and when Experience uses guided meditation that she’s not even sure will work to calm another character and get them through an ordeal. There’s just enough solid acting to balance out the campy scenes of stuffed sheep literally being thrown at extras fated to be viscera and dismembered limbs later on.
What really legitimizes and steals the show are the special effects. Without them, Black Sheep would be full of rubber costumes and weresheep that barely stay in frame in order to hide their shoddiness. Thankfully, WETA Workshop — the special effects company that worked on The Lord of the Rings — conjured up over-the-top monsters that are best described as “sheepotaurs” for their massiveness.
The lighthearted tone of this film makes it easy to laugh when sheep start tearing off limbs and disemboweling people. The consistent acting keeps the audience invested and the monsters are truly fearsome. Black Sheep is one of the few films that sets out with a reasonable goal in mind and achieves it perfectly.