If you're looking for the Chris Farley/David Spade movie, wrong review. As for this particular "Black Sheep", the film grabbed my attention when I first saw the trailer, which ends with a shot of a herd of psychotic, mutant sheep running over a lush, green hillside. The film opens with a pretty, peaceful scene of two boys herding sheep with their father in a gorgeous countryside setting. After something happens to their father, the two boys go their separate ways.
When brother Henry (Nathan Meister) comes back to sell his share in the family farm years later, he finds that his brother, Angus (Peter Feeney) has been genetically tampering with the sheep, looking to create a new breed that will offer investors better wool for their money. All the while, two environmentalists are watching from a distance, looking to get evidence against the farm. When one of them, Grant (Oliver Driver), grabs a fetus, he gets a nasty surprise when he trips and the container breaks. The little creature is, at first, nowhere to be seen - until it sneaks up behind him and makes a meal of his ear. Grant, in true horror movie tradition, then turns as nuts as the sheep...and eventually into one.
The remainder of the movie turns into a chase sequence as Henry and activist Experience (Danielle Mason) have to make their way across the farmland in order to find help. Perfectly paced at a whip-fast 83 minutes, "Black Sheep" is wonderfully creepy and occasionally very funny (when Grant has turned into a man-sheep, Experience scolds him that he's eaten meat, and asks him if it was even organic. Later in the film, mint sauce scalds the mutant sheep.)
The film does also boast some terrific effects (done by director Peter Jackson's WETA Workshop, and the film recalls some of Jackson's early horror work) and the real sheep are also surprisingly animated and amusing little actors. The human actors are excellent, as well - especially Driver and Feeney, the latter especially good as the increasingly deranged older brother. The film's New Zealand landscapes also act as promotion for the country - despite all the graphic horror going on in the picture, it doesn't stop the landscapes from being almost impossibly gorgeous.
Overall, this is a fun little horror film with some great scares and an amusing concept that's handled well.
VIDEO: Genius Products presents "Black Sheep" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Sharpness and detail are usually fine, although inconsistent at times, with some scenes looking a bit softer than the rest. The presentation did show some slight edge enhancement, but no instances of artifacting or print flaws were spotted. Colors remained natural throughout, with nice saturation and no smearing. Black level also remained strong, as well.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is fairly straightforward. Although the rear speakers are used at times to offer a few creepy sound effects, the majority of the audio is spread nicely across the front speakers. A few scenes impress sound-wise, such as the thunderous stampede of sheep towards an audience of investors later in the film. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and score (speaking of score, composer Victoria Kelly's score is marvelous, able to be playful and yet, in other scenes, give ridiculous moments a surprising amount of tension.)
EXTRAS: Director Jonathan King and actor Nathan Meister offer an audio commentary for the film. We also get an entertaining 30-minute "making of" documentary where we found out more about working with the sheep co-stars, WETA effects and production issues. We also get 5 deleted scenes with commentary, a "joke" scene shot for the DVD, some not-that-funny bloopers and the trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Black Sheep" is a fun little horror film with some great scares and an amusing concept that's handled well. It's definitely a flick to check out for those looking for a Halloween movie line-up. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a few nice extras. Recommended.
The Film B+