Written and Directed by: Dave Parker
Starring: Faye Dunaway, Hugh O'Conor, and Liz Smith
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"Just one kiss from you Sal, and I'd die a happy man..."
Rockabilly tunes, Elvis, Faye Dunaway as a Memphis cop, and a jilted undead man returned from a watery grave to exact revenge against those who wronged him--all this and more have come from the most unlikely of places: across the pond in fair old Britian! To be sure, the Brits have been responsible for their fair share of off-beat cult classics in their day (I'll argue that Shaun of the Dead is already one), but Monster Films's Flick is quite a unique experience. A surprise hit at last year's Raindance festival, Flick has seeminly garnered little buzz among the horror community, despite the fact that zombies are very much in vogue at the moment. It's a shame, as this is a stylish, entertaining undead romp that's full of ghoulish good tunes and bloody carnage.
It's 1960, and rock and roll is still king. It's dance night at the local halls, and a shy teddy boy named Johnny "Flick" Taylor only wants a dance and a kiss from pretty Sally Martin. Sally agrees, but this doesn't go over well with her boyfriend, Creeper, who bullies Johnny along with his friends. This sends Flick over the edge, as he brutally murders some the dancers at the hall and flees the scene with Sally. The young lady manages to escape Johnny's grasp, and, in the ensuing chaos, his car veers off the road, sending him to a watery grave. Forty years later, the car is recovered from the depths with Johnny's corpse intact. A pirate radio station specializing in 50s music awakens Johnny, who sets off to exact revenge on those who wronged him, and seeks to finally get that long overdue dance and kiss from Sally!
A pastiche of many styles, Flick is a fun little film that's difficult to describe stylistically. The swanky jazz score, dutch angles, and dynamic light and shadows give it a noir feel at times, and the use of comic-book transitions is a reminder of old, pulp detective comics. However, the film is also infused with a rockabilly soundtrack and other hallmarks of 50s and 60s culture (the radio station announcer who pops in every now and then is somewhat reminiscent of Wolfman Jack in American Graffiti). It's a bizarre clash of sights and sounds, but it succeeds in creating a very retro feel that's brought to life by a very modern look. The film makes use of some interesting lighting techniques, and the whole thing exudes a funhouse atmosphere. There's even a bit of a Halloween theme, as local teens have gathered for a Halloween party at the old dance halll; horror-themed tunes such as "Graveyard Rock," an old-school dance number, add a lot of fun to the proceedings.
Flick not only succeeds because of its retro-pastiche style, but also because of its characters. The main character himself is certainly interesting enough, and Hugh O'Conor infuses him with a sympathetic edge despite his murderous intents. That said, he's not the only strange character here: his mother is eccentric and shell-shocked and doesn't bat an eye when her son returns as a walking corpse 40 years after his death. Liz Smith's portrayal here is pretty hysterical, yet ultimately tinged with an edge of sadness, as she never quite processed the loss of her son. The show-stealer among the cast is without a doubt Faye Dunaway, whose surprising turn as a sassy Memphis detective who wears a prosthetic arm brings so much energy to the film. I'll admit I was surprised to see Dunaway among the cast given her Oscar heritage, but make no mistake: she gives it her all here and never phones in a second of her screen-time.
Dunaway's McKenzie character is the heart and soul of the piece, and her fun, tongue-in-cheek performance is emblematic of the film as a whole. Though the subject matter is quite grisly, the movie is delivered with a sense of wry, witty humor that makes for an offbeat experience. Even Johnny's gory murders are a bit over-the-top, as the blood sprays as it did in old 70s kung fu films. The camerawork gets a bit too overly-shaky during these chaotic moments, but, for the most part, the comic-book nature of these scenes are an interesting and well-done take. Despite the humor and carnage, the film manages to exhibit some heart and soul by the end, as Johnny and Sally's story comes full circle, and there's some emotional weight to the film's climax.
Director Dave Howard is certainly impressive and is a name to watch in the future, as Flick is funny, unique, and, most of all, very entertaining. It's generally well-written and the dialogue is often witty; the culture clash between McKenzie and her British counterpart is fun to watch, and their interactions are among the best moments in the film. It's always a positive sign when you have as much fun with the supporting cast as you do with the title character, who is an undead teddy boy dishing out revenge. Visually, the film is sleek, stylish, and separates itself from its contemporaries, no doubt due to the film's various stylistic modes. It's somewhat reminiscent of Rodriguez's Sin City at times, only obviously more colorful. To be sure, you're not going to find too many noir-tinted, pulpy zombie films, so, if anything, Flick stands alone in this regard.
For whatever reason, this one is already languishing in obscurity and hasn't seen a hint of a North American release. This is a shame because it's certainly better than 99% of the direct-to-video nonsense clogging up the shelves. Region 2 fans, however, will be happy to know that High Fliers is bringing this slice of zombie pie to DVD on October 19th. The screener sent to me featured a solid widescreen transfer that handles the film's wide visual palette well, and the surround soundtrack is crisp and clear. Hopefully our friends across the pond will make this one a success over there and create the worldwide buzz Flick deserves. Move and shake on down to the local DVD store of your choice, Brits, and Buy it!
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