Black Sheep tells the story of Henry Oldfield (newcomer Nathan Meister), who returns to the family farm to sell out to his big brother, Angus (Peter Feeney). The Oldfield estate is the top sheep farm in the region, and bad boy Angus wants to take his livestock to the next level.
Unfortunately, he’s not too sheepish to practice reckless and downright unethical genetic engineering. It’s not long before things get wild and wooly. Following an accident in which a mutant lamb is released from the lab, thousands of sheep are turned into bloodthirsty predators, and the “violence of the lambs” ensues.
Inspired by classic splatter films like The Evil Dead (1981) and early Peter Jackson flicks like Bad Taste (1987), writer-director Jonathan King makes his feature film debut.
The gag here is that sheep are the last animal on earth we would ever expect to be scary. Like his fictional Henry, King sees sheep in an entirely different light than most of us.
“It was exciting to discover how readily sheep could be transformed into monsters by exploiting their natural features,” he says. “They’re actually powerful beasts with sharp hooves, splayed teeth and black, lizard-like eyes. It’s only a small imaginative shift to see a sheep as a scary and dangerous animal.”
In my opinion, the true star of this film is the special effects team Weta Workshop, led by Richard Taylor. These are the people who produced the sets, costumes, armor, weapons, creatures and miniatures for the Lord of the Rings films.
King says Black Sheep is the New Zealand story that had to be told. Personally, I would like to see the director tackle the subject of tree sloths gone awry. Now those are some scary beasts.
Black Sheep releases in select theaters June 22.