Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Black Sheep (2006)

After having seen a string of rather disappointing zombie movies, it’s always good to see New Zealand’s latest entry into the genre to see once again how they’re supposed to be done. New Zealand, of course, is the birthplace of Dead Alive (called Brain Dead in some mad countries that aren’t mine), the single best entry in the horror comedy genre, so this had a bit to live up to. Needless to say, it didn’t quite match that lofty goal, but it’s pretty darn good all the same.

One instantly noticeable difference between the two films is that this one starts out a good deal more understated. While it does eventually turn ridiculously crazy, it doesn’t open with goofy Sumatran Rat Monkeys and people being chopped to bits. Instead we get a low key British-style comedy focusing on two feuding brothers, one of whom is now running their family farm, the other who, after a childhood incident, is deathly afraid of sheep and wants nothing more than to sell off his half of the land and go back to the city. Of course, there are some complications with both their plans, as Angus (the snooty farm runner) has hired a cute mad scientist to help bring his farm into the future, and when two idiotic hippie characters steal one of her experiments, unleashing a highly contagious undead sheep upon the countryside. As everyone watching had been quietly hoping for, of course.

Seriously, just try telling me you’re not wetting yourself right now.

While the male activist is quickly bitten and disappears for a while, the female (named Experience, of course) ends up with Henry (the one with the paralyzing fear of sheep) and his friend Tucker, after first menacing them with a gun and telling Henry she can see he has a very selfish aura. For the record, it’s this exact type of situation that makes me fully supportive of background checks before anyone is allowed to own a firearm. It quickly boils down to the three of them against an increasingly vast army of evil sheep, with writer-director Jonathan King giving us a good balance of comedy and violence to keep things constantly entertaining the whole way through. There’s a number of great moments in this, such as all the visual callbacks to other horror movies (I noticed ones to The Birds, Return of the Living Dead, and a transformation scene straight out of An American Werewolf in London, but I’m sure I missed a few). There’s some great dialogue as well, such as Henry’s mother being not quite as reassuring as she had intended when telling him “Oh don’t worry, I haven’t shot anyone since Christmas”. The violence also works quite well, and they managed to film dozens of evil monster sheep things on screen at once without ever seeming to resort to CGI, a sadly increasing rarity these days.

Frankly, just about everything about this movie made me grin like an idiot. I’m going to rate it a bit higher here than I probably should, but screw it. It’s a damn fun movie and you should go check it out. Now!

Rating: ****

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