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“One dance with you, Sally, and I’d die a happy man.” These words are stuttered and stammered painfully by a shy and bullied 1950s teenage Teddy Boy as he approaches his dream girl in a London dancehall. Sound like a horror film? Perhaps not, and that's because the British movie FLICK (arriving on DVD October 26 from Peace Arch Entertainment; see previous stories here and here), written and directed by David Howard and produced by Rik Hall, takes a touch of romance, throws in some comedy, sprinkles it with a zombie and blends it into an extremely unique spin on the horror genre. See exclusive pics and comments below the jump.
The story goes like this: It is London in the 1950s and just another typical Friday night for young Johnny Taylor (Hugh O’Conor). As he heads to the hop, he has a big hope in his heart for one dance with his crush, Sally Martin (Hayley Angel Wardle). Due to his awkward stuttering, Johnny is beaten up by the local boys. The pummeling sends him into a murderous fury, and Johnny uses his “flick” knife to stab the thugs who pounced on him. After Johnny brutally assaults the bullies, he escapes in his car, crashes into the river and dies. Flash forward 40 years later, and Johnny reawakens. Now as the undead, he is bent with rage and revenge toward those who once teased and tortured him. Even in his present zombie state, he still hopes to get one kiss from what is now the 62-year-old Sally (Julia Foster). Enter the one-armed Lieutenant Annie McKenzie from Memphis, Tennessee (Oscar winner Faye Dunaway), who is sent to England on a police exchange program in order to help solve the case.
Conceptually and storywise, FLICK unspools like a comic book come to life, utilizing many of the approaches from an independent trailblazer. “Producer Rik Hall and I always loved the Roger Corman B movies of the 1950s and the 1960s,” Howard tells Fango. “We decided that we would try to make a horror movie in the style of Roger Corman with the same set of rules he used to apply to his films. We used a small crew in a set number of weeks on a very small budget and cast at the center of it is a leading Hollywood player who wasn’t doing the type of role she was used to doing. That’s why we went for Faye.”
Interestingly enough, what drew Dunaway to the role was her character. “I read the script and I was immediately engaged by the premise and the central character of Annie McKenzie,” the actress says. “I felt she had real gusto and guts and there were layers to her character I felt I could do something interesting and fun with.”
A big part of what makes FLICK so fascinating is all the contrasting styles going on simultaneously. There are film noir trappings and a comic book technique (including animated segues by Alex Tomlinson) reminiscent of SIN CITY and CREEPSHOW, all within a horror/comedy and rock ’n’ roll movie. A true genre mash-up. “When you see those old covers from comics and TALES FROM THE CRYPT kinds of things, they are a bit trashy but incredibly memorable because of the colors and the fantastic art directors, gifted animators and wonderful illustrators who worked on them,” Howard says. “People like Tarantino and Rodriguez dip into that world all the time because it is such a powerful style of filmmaking.”
To find FLICK’s varied and stylized nature, Howard looked to the past. “The black and white scenes at the beginning of the film were always supposed to be in color, but we were very limited when we were filming,” he says. “We were limited in terms of production value in set dressing. When you go into black and white, a lot of these things get hidden in the shadows and we were able to hide any imperfection. It was another thing from the Corman book of how to get around a problem.”
With a rotting lead character at its center, FLICK plays like a living dead movie, though the film’s creator had another classic creature in mind. “I guess Johnny is a zombie, but I was much more a fan of the original James Whale movie FRANKENSTEIN where the Monster had some kind of empathy and reason for being, as opposed to your typical zombie film where there has been a virus or some kind of apocalypse,” the writer/director says. “So we wanted sort of a monster with a heart as opposed to your typical sort of zombie. Even though he looks and moves in the Romero style of zombie, we wanted to do something with a bit of heart in the center of it. It is kind of a love story, although a bit twisted.”
Dunaway adds, “I don't really see this as a pure horror movie. At its heart, is a kind of sweet old fashioned romance, a fairy tale for adults. The trappings of the movie may be played out within the horror genre, but its stylings and visual cues are much more from the world of the comic.”
So how was it for this first time feature helmer to work with the legendary Dunaway? “Absolutely fantastic because she came on her own to Wales all the way from Hollywood,” Howard says. “She worked very hard, incredibly long days, sometimes 18 hours and was the consummate professional. She really knows the cinema, the way the lighting and lenses work and you don’t really expect that from somebody on the other side of the camera.”
Dunaway sends some praise Howard and company’s way as well. “It was a very positive experience,” she says. “I’m proud to have been part of the film. David Howard should have a big future ahead of him. He’s an innovative and imaginative filmmaker with a real feel for creating a world on screen. And with his producing partner Rik, they make for a very exciting prospect. Keep your eyes on these guys.”
You can find out more on FLICK at the film’s official website here.
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