Stan stands alone at the back of the greyhound track, her eyes bright and shiny, her lips red and pouty. She croons and cranes her head from side-to-side like a cross between a jazz flapper and femme fatale; half Betty Boop, half Phyllis Dietrichson. She has all the winning tips. And, for some reason, she seems to be very, very interested in you. Feel free to take her up on a bet, but be warned: she’s after more than just your money. In fact, as any of her slaves will tell you, she’s not interested in money.
But perhaps I’ve said too much. Half the fun of Giles Borg’s Flutter comes from the gradual discovery of the depths of Stan’s depravity, control, and wickedness. Indeed, Anna Anissimova’s performance as Stan shines as one of the most inspired and horrifying villains in recent memory. You can’t cheat her, you can’t beat her. She always finds a way to win.
For the first act of Flutter I expected a pedestrian drama about the perils of gambling. It follows John (Joe Anderson), a man who, along with his friends, makes a tenuous living as a professional greyhound gambler. One evening he makes a small fortune off a tip from his dentist. Unfortunately, the bookie he took to the cleaners was none other than Stan. Slowly, gradually, she weasels her way into John’s life. Then she introduces her little “flutters”—a British slang term for a small wager. At first, they seem harmless: eat a hot chili pepper without crying or spitting it up, win some cash. But the bets become more sinister. Soon he’s pulling his own teeth out without anesthesia. Soon he’s staying a week in his bathroom without leaving—or telling his increasingly exasperated wife why. Soon he’s having medical experiments done on his body. Soon, his friends and family begin to die.
Flutter works both as a thriller and a cautionary tale about compulsive gambling. On the one hand, John keeps taking Stan’s bets because he “needs the money.” On the other, there’s literally no reason why he can’t stop taking her bets when they get too deadly and just get an office job. Like all deals with the devil, John damns himself.
I have a hard time believing that Flutter has taken four years to find an American distributor. Why? Because it’s British? Plenty of British films have made bank in the States. Because it’s a thriller with a female villain and a down-beat ending? Tell that to the nearly $130 million profit made off David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014). Something must have gone wrong with this film’s distribution because it deserves to be seen; the people who made it deserve to be recognized by the industry (and the public) for their achievement.