Director: Michael Karen / Writer: Jimmy Sangster & Natalie Scharf / Cast: Valerie Niehaus, Xaver Hutter, Alexandra Neldel, Simone Hanselmann, Erich Schleyer, Katja Woywood, Elke Sommer, Nicola Etzelstorfer, Christian Nathe, Fabian Zapatka.
Body Count: 12
Laughter Lines: “Why do parents always think their kids will get killed if they vacation alone?”
The teen-horror revival of the late 90s (“this type of movie is very popular right now!”) naturally spilled over to regional European imitations of Scream, of which this German slasher is likely the most fun.
Blah years ago (probably ten, as is the norm), a psycho wearing galoshes, a woman’s wig and a heinous floral dress is on the loose, first offing a couple of sexy teens on a train, and then entering the home of the Fielmann family, where he slaughters the parents and dog of young Jeanette, who later developed amnesia and cannot remember what happened after the loon cornered her by the door (the key is on a hook out of her reach).
In the present, Jeanette is offered a position by her shrink, teaching three spoiled teenage siblings French at their remote chalet in the mountains, while their father is away on business, scuppering their summer of partying. No sooner does she arrive then we begin seeing a cross-dressing, sickle-toting stranger everywhere (starting when she’s taken to see The Relic in a movie theater more raucous than the one in Scream 2), and it’s not much longer before friends of the three siblings, as well as domestic pets, begin getting hacked up by a cross-dressing, sickle-toting stranger.
Jeanette, meanwhile, becomes romantically entangled with the brother, Leon, much to the annoyance of Elke Sommer’s cranky housekeeper. She also begins to dream back to the murders, remembering a little more every time. There’s a whole thing about ‘the secret in the barn’ and a mid-point twist that’s partly confusing given what’s already supposed to have occurred by this point, its attempted explanation by a throw-away line is a little desperate.
Plot convolutions aside, Flashback has some super awesome ‘classic’ visuals, with the camera at weapon-level as the killer closes in on victims, a fun chairlift murder, a long chase involving a guy for once (poor dude cops a sickle in balls and has to limp away holding them together), and death-by-pool-cover for the person who earlier said “no one ever died in our pool!” The relatively high-end production values elevate this above most Euro-slashers, though it loyally checks every box on its way, with a particularly vicious streak in hacking and blending cute animals as well as obnoxious teenagers.
Most releases of the film outside its homeland suffer from pretty horrendous dubbing, which gives the film an unintentional (?) cheesiness thanks to the less than committed American voice actors and verbatim translation, which turns regular Germanic sentences into bizarre gibberish – we’re talking Bloody Moon levels of poor here.
There’s also some distractingly odd slapstick humor thrown in, with one poor guy repeatedly getting gunked in blood from various bodies that turn up, and a running gag about a body in a car. But when your killer is a guy in wellies and the dress grandma was buried in, it’s hard to play it too po-faced.
Worth a look but probably much better in German with subtitles – if such a version is out there.