Playback (2012)

The year is 1994 and the Spice Girls at the height of their power, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is released on VHS, Justin Bieber was being shat out of his mum and another psycho is murdering his entire family and filming it for kicks. All in all, a pretty crappy year.

Skipping to a number of years after this horrific tragedy rocked a small America town and high school student Julian Miller (Johnny Pacar) decides to use a school project as an excuse to make a horror film.

Tactlessly choosing the story of 1994 local psycho-killer Harlan Diehl (Luke Bonczyk), he begins recreating the horrors of that fateful evening. Feeling he lacks credibility in his research, Julian foolishly gets his ‘friend’ Quinn (Toby Hemingway) involved, asking him to find any news tapes about the incident.

Quinn works for a local TV station so delves into the tapes and stumbles upon a video of Harlan Diehl (Luke Bonczyk) just as his corpse is being shoved into an ambulance. Somehow – inexplicably – Quinn is infected by this tape … and then everything goes horrible wrong.

Quinn begins acting strange and obsesses over finding the police tapes of Harlan Diehl’s murder spree and then – utterly randomly – Christian Slater turns up as perverted paedophile cop. Apparently he uses Quinn to place hidden cameras about town (in girl’s locker rooms and their bedrooms, for example) and then buys the footage off him.

Fascinating, bizarre, brutal and demented, Playback is a surprisingly good for the majority of the film but unfortunately is inundated with some obvious horror film tropes and – despite the pace picking up significantly towards the end – Playback features a twist that is as surprising as toast.

There is also one hilarious exposition scene in which a wheelchair-bound video shop owner tells Julian EXACTLY what is happening with some amazing guesswork! It’s laughably bad.

Slater is perhaps the highlight of the film as pervy cop Frank Lyons, whose inclusion here is both random and delightfully odd. This entire storyline seems needlessly shoehorned in, but it benefits the film greatly.

Playback is certainly above par compared to a lot of the straight-to-DVD toss I’m thrown lately, with some particularly vicious deaths and it’s clearly made by people who actually understand the genre. It has some serious flaws but overall Playback is an enjoyable little film.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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