Monday, July 19, 2010

Flashback (2002)

It's strange how much German horror has changed over the years. The era of genius works such as "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" seems so at odds at what came much later-many really bad, shot on video gore movies. Then we got "Anatomy", a surprisingly effective little movie that caused a bit of a stir in horror circles (this was before the internet was what it was today mind you) and several other films that helped breathe new life into German horror fair. "Flashback" almost manages to be a nice addition to this cannon-"almost" sadly being the key word.

Jeanette (as an adult played by Valerie Niehaus) witnessed something awful as a child-she saw her parents being killed by a psychopathic killer (who was also a transvestite.) Years later, she's ready to move on, becomes a live-in tutor for a wealthy family, and even meets a boy. So things aren't too bad. Thing is, the past won't let go.

Adapted from an unused script written by Hammer horror veteran Jimmy Sangster, "Flashback" could best be described as a slasher movie with strong giallo like undertones. There are certainly some things to really enjoy about the movie: The performances are largely good, it has several of the old slasher movie clich├ęs (including the always welcome asshole/bitch who gets theirs) that are actually more welcome than usual, some of the kills are well done, there are some wonderfully eccentric characters (Elke Somner is really fun as the strict housekeeper) and an undercurrent of black humor.

Sounds great so far. So where does it go wrong?

Well, two gore gags try to come off as comedy, but fall flat because they clash with the tone of the rest of the movie. In fact, only one running gag (involving a victim in a car) works-the rest of the jokes are awful, especially anything involving two obnoxious policemen. The movie is more interesting when it's a straight up slasher and not a tongue in cheek one. The score by Stefan Ziethen is another weakness, as it lifts far too liberally from Marco Beltrami's brilliant score for "Scream." You wouldn't blame him if he sued for copyright infringement. The biggest kick to the balls is the awful twist nearing the end. You can see it coming a mile away, yet it still really sucks. Remember the awful twist in the ending of the otherwise excellent "High Tension"? Well, multiply that by five, and this is what you get.

It's a shame too, as I really was warming up to "Flashback." Too bad it ends up sabotaging itself in the halfway mark. Still, it could have been a whole lot worse, so I guess that counts for something.

Rating: 5.5/10

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