Commentarium will be back up soon – and much better than before – but for now I’ll just write down a few thoughts about movies I’ve recently seen.
Black Sheep is supposed to be a splatter-comedy in the vein of Bad Taste or Braindead, or, to some degree, the much better (and funnier) Shaun of the Dead . As the title suggests, the movie is all about evil flesh-eating sheepazoids.
Now that’s a wonderful premise if ever I heard one. Seriously. Sheep-related humour goes back hundreds, even thousands of years. Sheep are funny. They’re white, fluffy, stupid, and people do all sorts of nasty things with them. And violence involving sheep, as the Worms games have so wonderfully shown us, is inherently hilarious.
Hilarious is one word which does not describe this film. Sure, there are laughs – about one every five minutes or so. But what comes in between these laughs is rather boring.
There are two reasons for this film’s lack of success, both leading back to one source. The characters aren’t interesting (or even fleshed out) and there is very little creativity in what the sheep actually do (and what is done to the sheep). In other words, the fault lies with the writing. Where are the sheep-related jokes? I counted two (“Baaa-stards” and the sheep-shagging thing). And where in Dog’s name is the sheepy violence? I realize that the film had a low budget, but Peter Jackson’s old films had less money and managed to do more. Since realism doesn’t seem to be an issue, why so little human-sheep interaction? All we get is boring characters that we don’t give a fuck about running from scene to scene, pursued by sheep. There’s some gore, but it’s uninventive and not funny.
Furthermore, it’s not about anything. The film would be so much better if it had an additional level of satire, like Shaun does. If only the religious taxi driver, who shows up at random near the end of the movie, had been a main characters. The religious metaphor of the flock versus killer sheep. Now that’s got potential. Or at least give us sheep as conformity. Sheep as cuteness. Sheep as something. Anything.
Basically the entire film is based on one joke: killer sheep. But the fact of killer sheep isn’t funny. At least not after the first ten minutes of seeing them. What you do with a premise is what makes a film funny or not. And this film does next to nothing.
Even a well-directed film will fail if the script sucks.
All in all: watch Hot Fuzz, or Shaun of the Dead. Or Braindead.
Random trivia: While watching the film, I saw a character reading Michael King‘s The Penguin History of New Zealand. I had read Michael King’s Being Pakeha (a fairly interesting book on white New Zealand identity, even though I despise the concept of national identities of any kind) and wondered whether the director, Jonathan King, was related to him. I checked it out on the Wikipedia, and he’s his son. Cool.