Starring Adrien Brody, Sam Neill, Bruce Spence, Robin McLeavy, Jenni Baird, Anna Lise Phillips
Directed by Michael Petroni
In a time of formulaic “rinse, repeat” supernatural horror, it is refreshing to watch a movie made by people that obviously watched their share of creepers and learned whatever lessons could be plucked from each. The harsh sound cue that comes to signify impending dread. The abrupt strike against a nearby pane of glass and as the camera turns, we see a blur behind. That thing in the dark making a sound a human should not be able to make. The Backtrack crew clearly watched a lot of horror…and they know what scares you.
Peter Bower (Brody) is lost. He’s just moved to a new town with his tormented wife, who spends her days drifting in and out of a prescribed haze. After the abrupt death of his daughter, Peter is just fighting to keep himself together daily, so taking on psychiatric patients at the insistence of his old friend (Neill) probably seemed like an absurd notion, but we’ve all got to make a living. Though his host of troubled minds all propose unique undertakings, the youngest among them proves the most troubling. She won’t talk and disappears at the slightest disturbance. She could best be described as… unsettling.
As Peter delves into the girl’s past, his own suppressed memories come bubbling to the surface and that long walk down memory lane becomes more like crawling down a dark tunnel with something scratching its way toward you… always just out of arm’s reach. Something otherworldly is demanding Peter’s attention, but whether it is looking for aid or revenge is something he may not have time to find out. It’s hard to reason with the darkness at your door.
Backtrack begins with a dulled palette of colors, suggesting all happiness is gone from this life, and sets a tone alongside that is uneasy and at times jarring. Much like Paranormal Activity, cues are utilized to heighten our unease and expect incoming creeps. Surprisingly, this is not the only trick Backtrack has in its arsenal. Multiple layers of story are revealed as the drama plays out, all with moments of genuine horror that will shoot a chill up your spine. Every actor in this film is fully believable, cementing your immersion is this bleak world and opening up your senses further to any jump scare the director sees fit to pitch at us… in the most natural feeling ways possible. The movie we begin with is far from the tense thriller we end with as we are hurled headlong into the finale with expert pacing at breakneck speed. The closing moments are so satisfying, it will leave you wondering when the last time was you left a horror film feeling HAPPY!
When Backtrack uses elements of horror films we are familiar with, it uses them so well it feels new. There were more than a few shots where I was surprised what the film was doing actually creeped me out!! This is the sort of chilling tale that makes horror fans shout “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!” Make a note: Writer/director Michael Petroni is someone you should keep a close eye on.