Reportedly made for a third of the cost of one on-location trailer for Tom Cruise, Flick is waving its British mini-budget credentials with pride.

It's an apt title. Not only is Flick the nickname of the main character (on account of the deadly flick-knife that he wields), but the jargon term for a seemingly dispensable low-rent movie is deliberately suitable. This is not “cinema”, darling. That said, a comic strip tale of a drowned 1950s teddy-boy returning 40 years later as a rotting zombie and wreaking a watery revenge, all to a rockabilly soundtrack, is never trying to be.

Hugh O’Conor plays the luckless, stuttering Johnny Taylor. After summing up the nerve to ask Sal (Hayley Angel Wardle) for a dance at the local rock 'n' roll disco he's humiliated mercilessly by the local hoods. Johnny snaps, out comes the eponymous blade and bloody murder on the dancefloor ensues. In the commotion Johnny grabs Sal and drives off, only to careen into the harbour. Fortunately, Sal survives - as does Johnny, although he only surfaces decades later when the water is dredged, to the sounds of the pirate station Rockabilly Radio.

Of course, before the fetid-faced Johnny can exact vengeance, he goes home to visit mum first.

Director David Howard stages the initial sequences of exposition at a breakneck pace that boldly sets out his debut film's relentless visual style. The framing and colours are pure comic strip coda and several later sequences literally are the dialogue-acted static panes on the pages of a comic. The visuals have been extensively re-worked in post-production to add garish tones or blacks or to saturate the screen in moody hues. This is nowhere near as slick as Sin City, but they are of the same digital ilk and Howard certainly achieves his intended homage to the cheap B-movie fright flicks of yesteryear.

O’Conor gives a committed performance as the psychotic Johnny even if the opening scenes are such an assault that we get precious little time to feel for him and so hardly care about his broken heart. Everyone else is just as sketchily drawn and most sympathetic is Faye Dunaway’s character (yes, Faye Dunaway!). She brings great gusto to her role as a one-armed, hardened police detective incredulously on loan from Memphis Tennessee to the dreary coastal town’s constabulary.

Mark Benton is endearing as the British copper she teams up with, Michelle Ryan has fun as the grown-up Sal’s daughter and the venerable Liz Smith is, as ever, a fine comedy hoot as Johnny’s fruit-loop ma. They just about cope with a script that, in keeping with convention, is meant to be knowingly corny, but there are some very clunky moments and I’m not convinced they’re all intentional.

It has its faults, but there’s a lot to enjoy for a film that was shot in just four weeks. With its deliberately dodgy backscreen projections, skewed camera angles, extreme close ups and bold, broadstroked lighting, Howard may be homaging the lurid comics and B-movies of the 50s, yet Flick’s blade has been sharpened on early Peter Jackson as well. The requisite gore is no match for Braindead but there’s enough style and aplomb to give this the makings of a minor cult classic and a suitable addition to the rotting canon.

Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2008
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Flick packshot
Ghoulish grindhouse flick about a Memphis cop who is called in to help solve a string of Welsh murders.
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Director: David Howard

Writer: David Howard

Starring: Hugh O’Conor, Liz Smith, Faye Dunaway, Michelle Ryan, Mark Benton, Julia Foster, Terence Rigby, Hayley Angel Wardle

Year: 2007

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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