Color, 2000, 96m. / Directed by Michael Karen / Starring Valerie Niehaus, Xaver Hutter / Trimark (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) / DD5.1

"We've had some more sad news this Wednesday evening," intones a radio newsman. "Another ghastly murder has caused a stir in our town. A man in woman's clothing was spotted; that's probably the only clue!" With this opening, Flashback proves that Americans aren't the only ones who can churn out idiotic slasher films. Saddled with a plot packed with gobsmacking story holes and a distracting music score that should have Scream's Marco Beltrami consulting his lawyers, this senseless mixture of slashes and misfired black humor is one of the oddest genre efforts in recent memory.

Subtitled "Mörderische Ferien" (or "Murderous Vacation"), our story ramps out the cliches from the opening sequence in which a necking couple on a train falls prey to a killer in little old lady drag. Next up is a married couple whose young daughter, Jeanette (Valerie Niehaus), survives the attack but spends the next several years in an asylum packed with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace fanatics. (A fate worse than death!) Jeanette's shrink decides she's fit for society and sends her off to the mountains as a private French tutor for a trio of spoiled teenage brats. With only the cranky housekeeper (Elke Sommer) to keep them in line, the hormone-riddled pupils are soon teaching their instructor the joys of pool parties and horror films. Meanwhile a killer in drag is stalking the countryside, and Jeanette struggles to remember the entire event from her childhood before she winds up next on the chopping list.

Adapted from an unproduced script by Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster, the narrative itself feels like an especially late addition to the string of '70s Psycho imitations like Schizo and Die! Die! My Darling, but the necessity to inject gory killings results in some astonishing lapses in logic that rival I Know What You Did Last Summer for sheer stupidity. For example, just try to figure out how a traumatic practical joke late in the film negates everything that happened earlier in the story. Even worse, all of the young characters start out as truly loathsome and vicious, then skid downhill from there; you'll be pining for the good old days of those sweet natured, horny kids at Camp Crystal Lake. That said, if you want some undiscriminating gore, the film does deliver a few sick thrills like a body shredded through a mower, a number of sickle attacks, and a surprisingly high body count during the last ten minutes that rivals Tenebrae for sheer decimation of its actors. Just don't go in expecting it to make any sense at all.

The Trimark DVD courtesy of Lion's Gate contains an immaculate anamorphic transfer of the film. Though lacking in any striking visual style, it all looks fairly attractive and colorful with some beautiful exterior shots to keep things interesting. The surround audio is consistently active but not all that interesting, with synthesized moans and jolts tossed into the rear speakers to goose up some of the slower scenes. The original German track can be played with optional English subtitles, but the dubbed English track is a real laugh riot, packed with canned voices reciting ludicrous dialogue in the most off-handed manner possible. A trailer is also included.

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