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Just like your ordinary teen slasher flick, only this time with Christian Slater as the neighborhood pervert cop! YAY...!
Magnolia / 98 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: May 8, 2012
As the sage video clerk explains to our main character, there is a belief that some have that being photographed steals a part of your soul and so if someone is filmed, they can have the entire thing snatched away. This is the crux of Playback, a fairly inventive horror story that deals with possession, an evil lineage, and contains enough blood, nasty skin special effects, and story to keep a viewer interested.
The story starts with a group of friends working on a class journalism project about a young man, Harlan Diehl, who murdered his family. They decide to film a recreation of what happened to the different family members with as much accuracy as possible, which makes the main character, Julian, want to find out as much as he can about Diehl and why he did such a heinous thing.
The problem is that Julian gets much more out of the story than he bargains for, including his friends dying in the same way that they do in his reenactment of the film. He finds out about evil and a family dynamic that takes dysfunction to a whole new level. I was slightly thrown off by some minor plot holes in the movie; it seems that most characters become possessed in a Poltergeist-like snowy screened TV connection with the offending spirit (purportedly of Harlan Diehl), while others merely need to make eye contact with the evil character within the film, which is never really explained.
Having said that, there are enough layers and minor twists and turns in the plot to make you want to stick with it until the end: Who lives? Who dies? Who gets to live on? Was it properly set up for its sequel?
The characters in Playback are fairly cookie cutter (the prim girl, the outcast, the rocker chick ) smoothed out around the edges to make them believable enough to tell the story. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Christian Slater who plays the sleazy cop who likes to spy on young teenage girls (including one of the main characters) in the shower room. He is eventually put on the case of interviewing said girls about the disappearance of their friends. I have to admit that Slater plays a slimy SOB pretty well, and in this movie his little indiscretions play a part in continuing the cycle of evil that is handed down through the video tapes of Harlan Diehl.
Along with the story and characters, I feel like I have to include a thought about the music in Playback. I have to admit that often, when watching a film, I don’t consciously take in some of the music (especially the background music) that accompanies what’s happening during the film. I suppose that often, this is a good thing for background music; it can be effective and doesn’t really need to be overt. What is noteworthy about the background music in Playback is that it is noticeable – and in a good way. Whenever things become chaotic and a little bit kooky in the film, there is this great strain of discordant music that plays in the background. I have to admit that I have a penchant for this type of music, but I thought the music fit in with the movie nicely.