Saturday, June 30, 2007

Black Sheep (2007)

Jonathan King's cheeky debut feature is a prime example of a script that wasn't ready to be filmed. I give credit to King for his premise, which must have seemed awfully clever at the time: Genetic-engineering malfeasance results in ravenous, carnivorous zombie sheep that terrorize a New Zealand farming complex. The problem is that his film never does anything with that premise; the reigning assumption is that there's mutant killer sheep in this movie and that's enough to carry a 95-minute movie, right? Unfortunately, it's not; while the sheep FX (done by the invaluable Weta Workshops) are impressive, something needs to fill the dead space in between wooly-bully attacks, and King falls back too often on the bane of comic horror films -- the Broad Goofy Caricature. As with many films of its ilk, Black Sheep trades in stereotypes as a form of character shorthand, so we can know who is sympathetic and who deserves to catch their lunch without wasting valuable screen time on genuine development. The pitfall with this approach is that it's too tempting to go for the easy laugh by creating obnoxious types. It's the lazy way out, and it almost always results in one-note films that irritate more than they entertain. That is sadly what happens here, with the worst offender being granola eco-avenger Experience, portrayed with maximum annoyance value by Danielle Mason -- she's ostensibly a heroine figure, but she spends so much time making lame jokes about bad feng shui and selfish auras that I could only pray for her to get eaten as soon as possible. And if King's characterizations are lazy, his pacing is positively narcotized, wandering as it does from scene to lumpy scene. As a result, the film just kind of sits there, patiently waiting for an inspiration that never arrives. King does show promise -- there's the occasional laugh that works like it should (I knew that a sheep-fucking joke would pop up eventually, but I was surprised and amused by the angle from whence it came), and he has a burgeoning cinematic eye that's only accentuated by the gorgeous rolling landscape of the New Zealand countryside. Next time out, though, I hope he does more than throw a concept in front a camera and hope for the best -- I mean, even Undead was better than this. (That this gets a theatrical rollout while Isolation, which uses similar plotting and character types to far greater effect, goes straight to video breaks my heart.) But despite my reservations about his low-effort work here, King has my attention. Let's see what he can do with it.

Grade: C


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12:14 PM  

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