PlaybackPlayback (2011)

 I think my mask of sanity
is about to slip

Seeing the After Dark logo on the DVD case I know what I’m in for but does that help make the viewing experience easier?

So it starts at a farmhouse in generic small town America where a family is being murdered. It keeps switching between found footage and a more tradition film which works very well.

In fact this opening scene is very nice. Tense, nicely paced and very dramatic, I’m liking where this is going.

So next we see some teenagers (played by 30 year olds) making their own horror film for school. Again it’s a nice scene and this film is trying something new. So we are at one of the girls birthday party and just like the small town this film is set in this film now becomes very generic. The Birthday girl is stropy, slightly slutty, and nasty. Anyone who’s seen horror films of the last 20 years will recognise our final girl here and then there’s her boyfriend who despite being a fun happy guy is shown as being an idiot and always kowtowing to his stropy (and as one scene indicates abusive) girlfriend.

Don’t worry she’s not our hero and does die. Instead the final couple, progressive for a horror film, are made up of a couple of teenagers that defy the common horror tropes that seem to be obligatory for teenagers. She’s not a selfish know-it-all overly-emotional girl and he’s not a sex crazed, scared to stand up to his grilfriend moron. How can this film be so bland and generic but torment us with the odd decent scene and characters that defy convention? I don’t know how much I believe their relationship, wouldn’t call it a true romance but it does make a change.

It is a bugbear of mine having unlikable, stereotypical teens in films where you are supposed to be rooting for them and promoting bad qualities as empowering. What’s wrong with having a girl who’s a heather more often?

There is the standard CGI blood in places where squibs would work better for there is enough claret and practical effects for some of the deaths which can be quite good but the bits between the deaths are so boring.
Another HUGE problem are the sound levels, at least on the DVD I had, which are lowered when they are talking to the point that they mumble so you must pump up the volume just to hear what they say and then raised when the music kicks in or you get a sound effect like a gunshot for example meaning you have to turn your tv down only to be faced with mumbling again.
I like watching Horror films at night alone in the dark and had to turn off my surround sound system because I didn’t want to disturb my neighbours. There is no need for doing this.

Apparently this film had a budget of 7.5 million and 6 million of that went to paying for Christian Slaters 20 minute extended cameo in this. He plays a cop who’s a pervert and spies on the high school girls changing room. I would say he must be desperate for work but if he can be paid 6 million for 20 minutes screentime that can’t be true.

The other reported 1.5 million budget left leaves this film looking like it is an episode of a high school based TV show rather than a feature film.

The premise of Playback is about someone who can possess people through video cameras so he can have a son just to possess the son. I guess the possession isn’t permanent in anyone other than a son and he want’s to live forever but this isn’t explained or maybe it was but I couldn’t understand due to the mumbling.
Again this is something about this film which is a positive they even go as far as challenge the myth that master thief and all round gobshite Thomas Edison is the “Father of motion pictures” but was instead Louis Le Prince.
Unfortunately the film vilifies Le Prince by saying he only invented the motion camera to trap peoples souls and he was in fact some sort of demon. The film even goes as far as to prove this by the fact he named his son Adolphe (Named after Adolf Hitler despite the fact Hitler was born in 1889 and Adolphe appeared as a witness when Edison took his fathers company to court to claim he was first and sole inventor of cinematography shortly after Le Princes disappearence so he could get all the royalties for using single lens cameras that same year)
I don’t like this largely because Edison is the bad guy in real life and Le Prince has never got the credit he deserved so this won’t help as people will think he is a made up person and his film Roundhay Garden Scene, which is the oldest surviving film, was made just for this crappy film.

Despite having moments of promise I found this boring and too slow. The times it does something well or different only served to make the rest of the film more infuriating as there was clearly the chance to be given something better.
Maybe if most of the budget (though that is only reported and might not be true) hadn’t gone to Christian Slater we might have had something better but that would involve changes to the script and some of the characters as well as the effects and look.

Watch the first 5 minutes then turn it off. Don’t be fooled or tempted to stick with it because it’s all downhill from there.