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Arts & Culture

Black Sheep

Well at least Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) fears them. In fact he's terrified of them, and he's been in therapy for years to help him cope with the terror. Henry grew up on a farm where the family raised sheep. Little Henry initially liked sheep. Then his brother played a cruel, nightmare-inducing joke on him. Now as an adult, Henry's returning home to sign over his share of his late father's estate to his older brother Angus (Peter Feeney). But if Henry's scared of normal sheep, wait till he sees the genetic mutations Angus has been cooking up in his lab.

A pair of environmental activists accidentally release one of the mutant lamb fetuses onto the farm, and suddenly the normally docile sheep turn into bloodthirsty predators. Now Henry has to overcome more than his usual anxieties as he faces flesh hungry sheep with big pointy teeth. He gets some help from the local farmhand Tucker (Tammy Davis) and a cute vegan named Experience (Danielle Mason). And if things aren't bad enough, it seems that the victims of the sheep attacks aren't staying dead.

Facing the killer flock in Black Sheep (IFC)

Black Sheep marks the feature debut of Jonathon King. I'll give him credit for a clever twist on the zombie/gore formula. But maybe growing up with that many sheep leads to these sort of things. Now this isn't the first time that warm and fuzzy creatures have turned lethal. There's the classic killer rabbit from Monty Python's Holy Grail and the unforgettable Night of the Lepus. That film was, as the ads promised, about mongrel rabbits "born that tragic moment when science made its great mistake... now from behind the shroud of night they come, a scuttling, shambling horde of creatures destroying all in their path." Wow! They don't write promo copy like that any more! But King does deserve kudos for taking his tale to a nasty yet grossly funny extreme.

The human characters in Black Sheep are nothing more than tired stereotypes--evil brother; ditsy but cute environmentalist; uptight, mannish female scientist, etc. But the sheep are fabulous! Even before they turn evil you can see how they might unnerve someone. But once they mutate and start breaking down doors and eating businessmen, they're hilarious. It's as if they have woken up from a docile sleep with a taste for revenge and they act out on their impulses by turning the tables on the humans and eating them for a change. Plus these particular sheep are just a little pissed off at having their DNA altered. But don't think that the film is trying to make a serious social commentary. This is a film that's decidedly politically incorrect. Take the fact that one vegan activist is turned into a zombie and ends up eating human flesh, or the romantic feelings mean old Angus has for his sheep. King's not really interested in saying anything serious, he just wants to have a comic gorefest.

Get the flock outta here! A sheep that's all business with buyer from Japan. (IFC)

And a gorefest he has. Don't bother coming to this film if you're squeamish, or if you'd like to continue eating lamb. King goes for the jugular with all the tact of someone who's worked in a slaughter house and has grown immune to bloody entrails and such.

King doesn't have the wit of Shaun of the Dead's creators or the stylish assurance of the recent Fido , so his Black Sheep plays more as a gross out horror comedy than a smartly crafted take on the zombie genre. But King's film definitely has a handful of hilarious moments. Someone should market stuffed animals of his killer sheep so they can go on the shelf next to Monty Python's plush version of their killer rabbit.

Black Sheep (unrated but contains gore, suggestive content and some language) gets an 8 for gore, an 8 for clever concept but a 5 for execution. You do the math and decide if it's worth checking out.

Companion viewing: Night of the Lepus, Plague Dogs, Shaun of the Dead , 28 Days Later,