Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Black Sheep

For many years now I have wanted to see a 70s movie called 'Night of the Lepus'. This is not a well-regarded film. In fact it is generally reviled. However, its tale of giant rabbits terrorising the American Southwest seems so silly as to be irresistable, even though the film is apparently played straight. 'Black Sheep' with its tale of genetically altered sheep going on the rampage in backlands New Zealand is just as gloriously silly, but this time played strictly for (gory) laughs. You know you're dealing with something special when a man tackles a giant human/sheep hybrid with a bottle of mint sauce.
Of course, animal rights activists set off the unnatural train of events in what has now become a staple of horror since '28 Days Later' at least. Seeking evidence of illegal genetic experiments, the 'do-gooders' accidentally unleash a monstrosity on the local sheep (and human) population, turning all it bites into crazed mutants with a taste for blood. With 40 million sheep in New Zealand, as against 4 million humans, and a hero with a sheep phobia, the stage is set for shotguns, gore and baad sheep jokes.
Outside of the sheep though, there is nothing original here. In many ways it plays as a remake of the Australian horror comedy, 'Undead', itself hardly original. It also owes more than a little to fellow Kiwi, Peter Jackson's revoltingly hilarious 'Braindead' (not to mention the classically sickening 'Bad Taste'). Still originality isn't the point. Movies like 'Black Sheep' work by playing on the genre, and there is a lot of fun to be derived from usually placid animals storming over a hill and devastating a garden party (reminded me a little of 'Alligator', or 'Piranha', or 'Jaws', or ...). The cast too, though hardly subtle, do what's required, with Peter Feeney, as the evil farmer with a sheep fetish, making a fair stab at being a Kiwi Bruce Campbell.
Personally it recalled two stories I wrote years ago. The movie's climactic methane joke brought back fond memories of a World War 1 Chipmunk story, while the athropomorphised sheep reminded me of an even earlier tale of a were-sheep. Ah, the good old days!
Still, 'Black Sheep' is a welcome addition to the murderous sheep canon, and well worth seeing if you have a strong stomach for revolting lamb.

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