Black Sheep/Severance (2006)
By: James Gillett on December 4, 2009  | 
DVD
Icon (Australia). Region A, B & C, 1080P. 2:35:1/1:85:1 (16:9 Enhanced). English DD 5.1, HDMA 5.1. 178 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Directors: Jonathan King; Christopher Smith
Starring: Nathan Meister, Danielle Mason, Peter Feeney, Tammy Davis; Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Andy Nyman
Screenplay: Jonathan King; Christopher Smith
Country: New Zealand/UK
External Links
Purchase IMDB IMDB
Black Sheep

Horror Comedies are a tricky thing. For every Re-animator or Evil Dead II there's many a lacklustre miss that makes you want to swear off the genre mash for good. So where does Black Sheep stand? Well... somewhere in between.

When his father died in a tragic accident some 15 years ago (coinciding with a sick 'monster sheep' prank from his older brother Angus), Henry (Nathan Meister) left the family farm in country NZ with a new found sheep phobia and no desire to ever return.

Now, with Henry apprehensively back home for the first time, Angus plans to buy out his part-ownership of the property with the intention of taking his sheep farming practices in a new, more profitable direction. Only that new direction involves interference with sheep (no, not that kind of interference, I'm talking genetic) and the result is a murderous man-eating flock.

"Get ready for the Violence of the Lambs!"

A great concept: A killer sheep horror comedy set in New Zealand. Really, if that idea works for you then Black Sheep is at least worth a look. The Killer Sheep joke is well capitalised on here and some moments are very funny. Only problem is the Killer Sheep joke is really the best joke this movie has, and before you see the credits roll you may find the joke has lost a little of its impact.

But, as I said, Horror Comedy's can be a tricky thing and finding the right tone is everything. Black Sheep, for better or worse, is very much a comedy first, horror second (or perhaps not at all). This quite silly flick goes for nothing but laughs every time. That's ok, because for the most part the laughs are there. A few dialogue exchanges and visual gags work a treat and the overall tone (though a little too light) serves the film well enough. Honestly, with a little more darkness and tension this could have been much more involving, and in turn, humorous. Still, some will most likely dig its lighter approach and have a plenty of fun with it.

It must be said that the films greatest asset is by far the wonderful effects work by WETA (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy). It's truly impressive stuff that allows the film's many gags to be executed for maximum effect. It's also a pleasingly shot little flick that makes great use of the scenic NZ countryside. Performances are pretty good too, and all in sync with the silly tone of the film. I'm not sure what the budget was here (not huge I imagine) but it all looks mighty fine.

Black Sheep is enjoyable, reasonably funny and technically pleasing, only it loses momentum in the final stretch and by then the joke is pretty much over. Well worth a look, and probably best enjoyed with a couple like minded friends, drink in hand.

Severance

After his straight and seriously toned slasher pic Creep, writer director Christopher Smith is back with another dose of UK horror. Only this time he's bringing along some laughs too.

Depending on how you view Horror Comedy in general (I find they can be a more of a miss than hit affair) that may seem like a risky endeavour, but fear not; Smith has talent. If you're about to watch Severance, you're about to experience something of a rarity; a true Horror Comedy. Yes, I'm pleased to report this flick is funny and it doesn't completely forsake its scares. At that, Severance is already in my good books.

The film concerns a small group of employees from a weapons development company based in the UK who find themselves on a team building weekend in Eastern Europe. After arriving at the supposed destination, the motley bunch soon discover something is a little iffy, then a lot iffy, as they become hunted by a crazed killer(s).

The key to this film working as well as it does (and it works its ass off) is the near perfect tone for this kind of flick. Severance manages to walk the line between horror and humour with ease. How? Well by putting amusing characters (think a bunch of Brits you would usually associate with a UK sit-com like The Office) in horrific situations, with a reasonably serous approach. Apart from a little slapstick (the opening scene see's a guy fleeing for his life before running into a tree) Severance plays much of its horror straight, and is better (and funnier) for it. The characters are well written, but as amusing as they are (especially if British humour is your thing) it's the combination of them and the many horrific situations that makes this film so good.

It doesn't skimp on the red stuff either. Those who like their genre flicks with a healthy serving of plasma will find themselves an appetising meal in Severance. Also, those who enjoy a little social commentary with some satire on top will find some icing to their liking too. Yep, Severance has blood and brains, something often lacking from many a recent horror flick. It's here and it's all tasty. Eat it, it's good!

Rounding out the quality is the strong performances from the central cast. Danny Dyer (Human Traffic, Adulthood) does well as the troublemaker of the bunch, acting the damn fool, which is exactly what's required considering his characters' shroom consumption. Also good is Tim McInnerny as the group's boss, who in fumbling manner constantly tries to remain in control. Laura Harris (The Faculty, 24) is good too playing the hottie of the bunch (probably didn't need the mention, she's hard to miss, and yummy looking)

Severance is a refreshingly strong Horror Comedy. Writer Director Smith should be commended on succeeding were so many others fail. I'll certainly be keeping a close eye on this future projects. If this is anything to go by, Smith has a bright future indeed.
Video
Black Sheep is presented in 2:35:1 24p and looks great. Of the two, it definitely sports the stronger transfer. Picture is beautifully sharp and clear. Colours are vibrant and black levels are strong. No complaints whatsoever.

Severance is presented in 1:78:1 50hz (yep, no 24p here unfortunately) and looks reasonably good. Clarity and colour reproduction is a slight notch above the Region 4 DVD, but that's about it. The transfer is good, but not hugely impressive for a HD master, mostly due to it occasional softness.
Audio
Both movies present options for either 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound or DTS HD Master Audio. The HD Master tracks on both films were suitably strong, if perhaps a little stronger on Black Sheep. Pretty solid all round without any noticeable flaws or balance issues.
Extra Features
Non-existent. Upon inserting the disc you get the option to play either Black Sheep or Severance. You are then taken to a movie specific menu with a couple of options; Play Movie, Scene Selection, Audio Setup or Select Film. That's it. Absolutely no extra features are present here for either film.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
So here we have two Horror Comedies on one disc – both produced outside the US and both with puns for titles, and thankfully, both are worth a look, especially Severance, which manages to successfully blend British humour with black horror-comedy to great effect, proving you can have your laughs and keep your scares too.

As far as the disc goes, while the video and audio presentation pleases for the most part, we get zero extras. The conciliation being that you get two flicks for the price of one. If you're an extras kind of guy (or gal), it might be worth checking out the separate releases for all the goodies.

Black sheep (available here on either Blu-ray or DVD) contains the special features missing here. As for Severance, the local SE DVD (or import Blu-ray) also includes the absent extras.

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