UK (2008) Dir. David Howard
“From the Special Effects team that brought you Creep and Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers” is the proud proclamation on the DVD cover of this low budget British horror. While some may be encouraged by this endorsement, the result is that unless the film has the budget of LOTR then it doesn’t matter who did the special effects.
I have never heard of this film before someone gave me the DVD the other day and judging by the lack of coverage uncovered while researching it, presumably few others have. Despite boasting a host of well known British faces and a Hollywood legend, as well as the aforementioned SFX team, it becomes apparent very quickly why this film has sunk into obscurity.
This zombie revenge story begins in 1960 when shy Teddy Boy Johnny Taylor (Hugh O’Conor), who suffers from a stutter, asks the girl of his dreams Sally Andrews (Hayley Angel Holt) for just one dance. Sally agrees but her thuggish boyfriend Creeper Martin (Ricci Harnett) doesn’t like Johnny and sets upon him with his thug friends. An enraged Johnny retaliates with his flick knife and there is murder on the dance floor.
Johnny flees with Sally but crashes his car in the river, from which only Sally escapes alive. Forty years later and the car is retrieved from the bottom of the river with Johnny’s rotten corpse still at the wheel. While the car is still sitting at the docks, the guard has a pirate rockabilly radio station playing, the sounds of the fifties awakening Johnny from his slumber. Believing it is still 1960, Zombie Johnny goes on the rampage to have that dance with Sally and get his revenge on Creeper.
It sounds like the sort of plot one would expect from a straight-to-video teen horror from the 1980’s so the fact this takes place in Britain (actually shot in Wales) makes this even more of a curiosity. At the risk of sounding uncharitable it probably would have been more palatable if this had been set and made in the deep south of the US to give it that missing edge.
This would also help explain why the UK police force felt it necessary to import and American detective from Memphis, Tennessee – Lieutenant Annie McKenzie (Faye Dunaway) – to help solve the case. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for this unless the idea is to symbolically cede Britain’s contribution to rock’n’roll to the Yanks; and while we’re at it, an explanation as to why McKenzie had a false arm wouldn’t have gone amiss either!
Working alongside McKenzie is Sergeant Miller (Mark Benton) who is basically a cipher for the audience to ask questions of his US superior, otherwise he is mostly ineffective. Upon his resurrection and first kill, Johnny returns home where his dotty old mum (Liz Smith) has been waiting for him since 1960. The fact her son is soaking wet, putrid and has an unhealthy bloodlust doesn’t stop her from loving him like he hasn’t changed, making him a cup of tea and sending him to bed.
Meanwhile Sally (Julia Foster) is now 62 and married to Creeper (Terence Rigby in his final acting role) with a daughter Sandra (Michelle Ryan). Every Friday night when the Rockabilly Radio starts up, Johnny gets his best outfit on hits the town and slays the men who attacked him that night, leaving Creeper until last. McKenzie and Miller are always step behind whilst Creeper thinks it is all a joke anyway.
And therein lies another problem with this film – is it a deliberate comedy or one which is so bad we find our own humour in it? Aside from the scene where zombie Johnny is praised for his ambitious costume at the convenient horror themed party at Creeper’s club there doesn’t seem to be any concerted effort to suggest this was designed to make us laugh.
The occasional use of a comic strip to cover the passing of time and cover exposition is a handy gimmick that denotes a quirky approach more than anything, so it is left to McKenzie’s mechanical arm and Johnny’s loopy mother to presumably remind us this is a humorous outing. The script is certainly lacking in wit and many of the characters are poorly drawn caricatures, essayed without conviction or indeed any real effort from the familiar cast.
Director David Howard has mostly done TV documentaries and short films prior to this and it shows as the film is all over the place stylistically. The comic strip device is one example with others including the cartoon green mist Johnny exhales, the musical notes that dance out of the radio when a song is playing or the cartoon blood that spatters during a killing.
One cool effect is Johnny’s point of view with people and places shown as it was in 1960 while the reality is modern day (the year 2000 – although nobody has mobile phones!). The music is made up of genuine 50’s hits and bespoke compositions from Richard Hawley, who also plays Bobby Blade, the pirate radio DJ, and are a main highlight of the film.
Three is no questioning the talent in this film yet Howard is unable to get a competent performance from most of the cast, which also includes John Woodvine, Geoffrey Hughes and Anna Karen. Liz Smith is one again in her element as the batty old mother and steals the show while Faye Dunaway plays McKenzie for laughs, presumably having predicted what a farce this would be.
Add to the fact that there is little to no gore in this film, Flick has very little to offer film fans anything other than some decent early rock’n’roll tunes and some interesting and quirky presentation ideas. David Howard has yet to make another feature length and Flick essentially demonstrates why. Definitely a film that deserves to remain buried in obscurity.