Do you remember about a decade ago when I was working at a video store and I was in charge of the buying and I was ordering every post-SCREAM slasher revival flick that came down the pike even though most of them were beyond terrible? Neither do I, but the journal that I wrote whilst wearing a monocle says that it happened. The other night while rummaging through the furthest reaches of Netflix streaming I spotted a film from that sour time period that I actually liked. It’s called FLASHBACK and it’s from Germany and I recommend it with only a half dozen or so caveats. I feel it’s my duty because the cover art is abominable and is sure to repel any potential advocates.
First of all, this endorsement is for slasher fans only. If you’re not a slasher fan you might as well keep walking; nothing to see here. Clichés abound so your enjoyment level probably depends on how much you embrace certain tropes. Secondly, the Netflix streaming version (unlike the DVD) only presents the film dubbed and oh, what a dub it is. Personally I can get into bad dubbing. I find it sort of amusing and strange and think it can add a weird surreal cartoon tone to things. Yeah, it makes the film harder to take seriously but it adds a goofy fun element too. The dubbed version of FLASHBACK is particularly ridiculous and clumsy and may be the absolute corniest found this side of THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, but I say lean into the turns and get down with the sickness.
Let’s get to some of the good stuff. I like the slick but not too slick way this film was shot and it’s setting in the Austrian Alps is postcard glorious; as routine as some of the action is, the location and the novel atmosphere are worth the trip. Another big bonus is the multitude of kills which are deliciously bloody and darkly humorous in an almost HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME type of way. A sickle ala CURTAINS is deftly put to use for most of them, but an assortment of more unusual tools and devices are utilized too. The bloodshed is fierce but funny, leaning on slapstick rather than mean-spiritedness. You will also find ELKE (BARON BLOOD, LISA AND THE DEVIL) SOMMER lurking around the premises and that can only be a good thing. Dubbed or not, ELKE is ELKE.
I’m unashamed of digging the plot, which is as rickety and boiler plate as they come. A psychopath in ladies garb is murdering people. As a child, Jeanette watches her parents murdered by the killer during an URBAN LEGEND-influenced home invasion. She spends ten years in a mental hospital under close scrutiny of a psychiatrist smelling of red herring and is released to tutor French to a trio of tech savvy spoiled siblings. People get slaughtered left and right and the list of suspects is tenfold. Has the killer returned or is Jeanette bonkers? As mundane as this all may sound FLASHBACK does offer a few semi-unpredictable twists and turns. Nobody needed the bungling cops accompanied by flip musical cues in HALLOWEEN 5 and they certainly don’t need them here, but they are a small price to pay to see a sickle wedged in a head and body parts flying out of a snow blower.
Perhaps some of the reason FLASHBACK is better than you’d expect is because it stemmed from an original idea from HAMMER mainstay JIMMY SANGSTER (THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE NANNY, WHO SLEW AUTIE ROO?) although it’s obviously been filtered through and influenced by the aforementioned SCREAM-machine as well. Like I stated though, I enjoy this jaunt scads more than most of the other wannabes littering video shelves early last decade. It’s got yummy gore, a devil may care disposition, jaw dropping scenery and ELKE SOMMER after all. I suggest slasher fans check it out and why not give it a bit of a leg up with some inebriation to boot. It won’t change your world but it might change your night and as awkward as the dubbing is, like many wretched and unnecessary annoyances in life, you do get used to it. You might even end up like me and learn to love it.