Julian (Johhny Pacar) is making a film about an infamous murder committed decades previously. When he asks an archivist friend Quinn (Toby Hemmingway) to get him some raw footage from the scene when, somehow, an evil which existed within the murderer is transmitted through the footage and possesses him.
Playback has a rather dubious honour in the annals of US Box Office history, it currently being the lowest grossing theatrical release of the year, with a box office total of $264 which likely didn’t pay for one night of Christian Slater’s, who makes what is essentially an extended cameo here, hotel room. One has to wonder sometimes how films like this get made, who sees this kind of material and decides to sink money into it in a bid to actually make a profit? All told though, Playback isn’t the worst horror you’ll ever see and deserves a watch more than many theatrically released films which make far more in one show than this did in its whole run.
That’s not to say it’s actually any good, but there’s a certain part of this writer who wants to give it points for actually trying to do something even slightly different. Tales of possession and ghostly video tapes are pretty commonplace in the horror landscape but I can’t think of too many examples of films which combine the two, which at least gives it a slight bit of a USP. The idea of film physically and mentally changing someone is an idea which has been explored, and there were elements of this film which reminded me of John Carpenter’s excellent Masters of Horror episode Cigarette Burns, but in all, there’s a certain mashing up of elements which combine to create something not exactly new, but at least slightly more interesting than many other DTV horror films clogging up the marketplace.
This is probably where the actual praise for the film ends but I’m also not all that willing to completely slate the thing. Director Michael A. Nickles is obviously a fan of horror and has made one which harks back to others, he also employs a solid look to the proceedings which show that some production value has been added at least, and with distortions added to the picture in a bid to add atmosphere, and for cheap scares, there’s certainly a couple of moments of engagement here.
The actual narrative running through the film though is obviously complete balls, though those expecting anything else are misguided. The film goes through the motions of fake-out scares, bad guys acting increasingly weird and moments of gore to keep people awake during the middle third while the presence of Christian Slater adds a level of ”let’s see how far down the rabbit hole he goes” morbid curiosity and indeed he earns his paycheque being generally sleazey and disgusting. The rest of the cast are identikit mid-20′s actors playing teens, none of them all that terrible but nobody exhibiting one moment of anything particularly special.
That’s where it ends really. A generic DTV horror with a couple of moments of interest and a generally amiable feeling which means its hard to feel angry at the thing, though then again feeling a sense of overwhelming “meh” may be worse really.
The DVD through G2 Pictures has had a bit of effort paid towards it though, at least in the AV department with a decent video transfer which is clean and generally sharp along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that has some fun with the surround sound channels and bass throughout, resulting in a surprisingly effective soundscape which some far more expensive films would have been proud of. No extras on the disc but I don’t think these are needed at all.
Overall, Playback is a fairly bland, inoffensive horror which doesn’t beg to be watched nor to be set on fire, along with better than average AV result in a disc which genre heads may want to get to, at least for a rent. Maybe.