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Playback (2012)

Playback film poster

Director: Michael A. Nickles
Screenplay: Michael A. Nickles
Starring: Johnny Pacar, Toby Hemingway, Ambyr Childers, Christian Slater
Certificate: 18
Running time: 98 minutes
Release date: 16 July 2012

The latest release from the After Dark series of horror movies, and hinging on a clever premise, Playback is a riff on so many horror films that have come before that you could play a drinking game just spotting the influences. Everything from The Ring, Halloween, Videodrome and numerous found footage films are hinted at throughout the duration of the movie. However don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a found footage film in the traditional sense.

Firstly, the clever premise plays on the old urban legend that a photograph can steal a piece of your soul. If that is the case, what happens when someone is caught on camera. What happens when one man – if he is a man – discovers that he can possess others via the medium of celluloid? Fifteen years ago a family were viciously massacred, the film’s depiction of the event including a moment where a cinematic taboo is so nearly broken. This scene, which is actually the opening prologue, is quite brutal and means that the remainder of the film has a lot to live up to.

Unfortunately, despite a few moments of interest, Playback just can’t live up to that promise. Quite why Christian Slater (whose recent genre high points have included TV work and appearances in Hollow Man 2 and Uwe Boll’s Alone In The Dark [so not that high then!]) agreed to appear as a pervy cop, whose character offers little to the plot, is a mystery. Instead, we are left to follow a group of teens who have been filming a reconstruction of the aforementioned massacre. Another teen, who has been lending the gang the AV equipment to make the film, is possessed via a video of the crime scene from the original massacre and begins to kill the teens off, but cleverly he possesses some of the others to get the grisly work done. A similar idea to control other bodies to get dirty deeds done has been used before, but with better effect, in movies like Fallen.

A couple of convoluted ideas which try and offer twists all feel forced, and you’re left with the feeling that had this production been given a better budget and a more streamlined idea of what it wanted to be, then it could have been a great little film. As a result, some parts drag on while you wait for the story to progress and ultimately we are left with a movie which tries to juggle too many ideas, albeit quite a few good ones, but which ends up dropping most of the balls.

JD GILLAM

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