Black Sheep [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Icon Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Chrisana Love & Noor Razzak (23rd June 2008).
The Film

Influenced by Peter Jackson’s earlier (and superior) films such as "Bad Taste" (1987), "Meet the Feebles" (1989) and "Braindead", it’s a film with such a ridiculously obvious premise it’s surprising it wasn’t made sooner. Taking a fistful of (self aware) horror clichés, gallons of fake blood and a tonne of old school latex intestines and organs, they don’t spare on the Troma-moments. I guess when you have WETA Workshop at your disposal you put ‘em to good use. It had even a hardened gore fan like myself was wincing away.

Gist: Youngest son Henry (Nathan Meister) inflicted with "ovinophobia" a fear of sheep stemming from a childhood trauma, returns to the farm he left as a young man to find his older brother Angus (Peter Feeney) has turned the farm into a testing ground for genetically engineered sheep, the extent of which even Angus is unaware of due to the involvement of disgraced scientist Dr. Rush (Tandi Wright). A pair of bumbling environmental activists unleash one of the specimens onto an unsuspecting flock, who in turn infect each other and attack a group of farmers and investors who are there for Angus’ super-sheep display.

All the classic horror set ups are there. Isolated location, genetic tinkering, unsuspecting humans...The beauty of this film is that it takes from many sub-genres. The sheep themselves are classic zombie material, the human/sheep hybrids (the result of an infected sheep bite) appear like werewolves (weresheep?). There are some jaw droppingly disgusting moments (one involving an “offal pit” which nearly had me running for the nearest bathroom) and I was expecting a sheep-shagger gag in there, but when it actually arrives the extra twist they put on it really brings up the bile.

Highly entertaining, if not a little too dumbed down (horror enthusiasts are these days are generally a much more savvy audience) the characters (with the exception of activist “Experience”) are all nicely (if not incredibly broadly) drawn. The farmers son with a sheep phobia, farmhand Tucker (Tammy Davis) complete with Billy.T chuckle, flesh happy housekeeper Mrs. Mac (Glenis Levestam) whose meal preparation almost put an ardent carnivore like myself off meat for life. Then there's Grant (Oliver Driver), the self righteous vegan (who ends up ripping the throat from a rabbit with his teeth) and the villainous Angus, putting profits, fame and glory over the farm.

Unfortunately the dialogue and its delivery are both patchy. Danielle Mason suffers from the most thinly written part, as “Experience”. Sure, she is obviously intended to be annoying as hell, but some of her “gags” were just lame. Also, the digital transformation between human and sheep looked somewhat out of place next to the old school latex gore. Again, I guess if you have WETA at your disposal you make good use.

A great blood-fest that is clearly aware of its roots, but could have done with some further fleshing out (excuse the pun) of its characters and script but comes highly recommended.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer is delivered to us in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. This Blu-ray disc is the only way to get the film in its original ratio in Australia or New Zealand as the DVD release is 1.78:1. I'm glad the distributor saw fit to release this title in it's proper ratio. Overall this is a fairly decent effort, sharpness is well balanced and detail holds up well. I was a little disappointed that colours didn't seem as vibrant as they should be, although most of the scenery holds up the rest looked a pale in comparison. There was some noise amid the blacks and edge-enhancement was also spotted in a few scenes. These few flaws hold the transfer back from a higher mark.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. I was a bit disappointed that Icon/Warner Brothers didn't include an HD audio tracks such as a PCM, DTS-HD or TrueHD audio as this film could have benefited from a much more powerful surround sound experience. In saying that, the standard Dolby 5.1 track is good enough (for what it is). The film's dialogue is clear and distortion free, ambient sounds are mixed well throughout the sound space creating depth where needed. The action/horror scenes are well handled but could have been a touch more aggressive, I expected therm to come off punchy but didn't quite deliver the goods. Finally the film's score adds another layer to the tracks depth and overall the mix seems to handle the range of sounds in this mix quite well.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired only.

Extras

Icon and Warner Brothers has released this film with an audio commentary, a featurette, a collection of deleted scenes a blooper reel and the film's theatrical trailer, below is a closer look at these supplements. All of the extras are presented in standard definition.

First up we've got a feature-length audio commentary by the film's writer/director Jonathan King and actor Nathan Meister. These two are rather chatty about the production and seem very enthusiastic about talking about it. There's plenty of production stories thrown about as well as technical information about the shooting, the effects, editing and music among other things. This is a fine track to listen to as these two are genuinely into providing fans with a whole host of information and stories. Definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed the film.

Next up is "The Making of Black Sheep" featurette that runs for 31 minutes 32 seconds and features interviews from key cast and crew about the production, casting the actors, shooting in New Zealand and using the talents of WETA to create the various effects for the film. There's plenty of behind-the-scenes footage from the actual production as fans get an insight into filming this horror/comedy.

5 deleted scenes are next and include optional audio commentary by writer/director Jonathan King and actor Nathan Meister, in their track these guys provide a reason for the omission of these scenes from the final cut of the film. These scenes can be viewed with a 'play all' option or individually and they include:

- "Tucker Meets Henry" runs for 1 minute 25 seconds, Tucker is almost run over by Henry's cab.
- "Angus Intro" runs for 53 seconds, Angus scares off a sheep in his shed.
- "Experience Explains" runs for 37 seconds, Experience tells Henry about taking the sample from the lab.
- "The Car Pulls Up" runs for 22 seconds, Mrs. Mac drops off Experience and Henry.
- "Mike Rises" runs for 24 seconds, Mike rises from the dead.

Next up is a blooper reel that runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds and feature the usual line flubs and missed cues.

Rounding out the extras is the film's original theatrical trailer that runs for 1 minute 58 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


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