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Black Sheep

Rated PG-13, 87 min. Directed by Jonathan King. Starring Nathan Meister, Peter Feeney, Danielle Mason, Oliver Driver, Tammy Davis.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 31, 2007

Black Sheep What would Shari Lewis have made of Black Sheep? I suspect the late puppeteer, whose doe-eyed puppet Lamb Chop was a frequent guest of Captain Kangaroo and The Tonight Show, would have suffered an outraged embolism at the prospect of New Zealander King's splendidly disgusting horror comedy in which the titular cuddly fluff-balls (genetically mutated, natch) opt out of the Morrissey diet plan in favor of a more meaty dinnertime regimen. Meat may be murder, but then so is mutton, and the laugh-until-you-gag Black Sheep brooks no argument when it comes to laying on both the mint jelly and spurting freshets of arterial gore. This is PETA's worst nightmare recast as a very Peter Jackson-inspired cautionary fable of nature run amok and played for yak-inducing guffaws. As in 28 Days Later, it's those dizzy animal-rights activists who inadvertently set hell in motion. Flakester nonpareil Grant (Driver), who looks like a goat even before he begins turning into one, and his leggy eco-activist gal Friday named Experience (the excellent Mason) run afoul of misanthropic sheep farmer Angus Oldfield (Feeney) just as the farmer's prodigal, sheep-phobic sibling, Henry (Meister), returns home when the family patriarch breathes his last. The Lord God may have made all creatures great and small, but the carnivorous "woolites" running riot here are pure hell spawn, and they gnaw, rend, and "baa-aaa" their way through assorted bipeds as if they were making up for all those years of being hounded by yapping cattle dogs. Before you can say, "Dead Alive is the best horror comedy of all time," Henry and Experience, aided by Henry's genial farmhand pal Tucker (Davis), are neck-deep in gore and fighting for their lives against an army of ravenous ruminants. Black Sheep is flat-out comic-horror genius, a one-joke film that manages the remarkable: It sustains and builds upon its "ewe-are-what-ewes-eat" conceit and eventually enters into the realm of Night of the Living Dead but, you know, with sheep. The nonstop gore effects by Jackson's Weta Workshop are gooey good fun, the cast is uniformly superb, and the entire film has a loose, borderline surreal vibe that never quite slouches into outright self-parody. It's smart; it's silly; it's – kill me now – shear terror.
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