Adrien Brody is forever playing men who are haunted by their past (The Jacket, The Pianist) and his character in Backtrack, psychologist Peter Bower, adheres to this successful formula with Brody’s mournful gaze taking centre stage throughout. With first-rate direction from Michael Petroni, (The Book Thief, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) the audience are left as in the dark as Bower, enabling viewers to empathise with his situation as the disturbing events begin to unravel for both the protagonist and those watching.
When it dawns on Bower that something is not quite right with his patients he reaches out to his old friend and mentor Duncan Stewart (Sam Neill) only to discover that a long buried secret from his past is gnawing away at his conscience. Visions of ghosts collide with memories of his recently deceased baby daughter and Bower is forced to return to his hometown where the torment began.
Petroni effectively builds up a brooding and suspenseful atmosphere and his main cast do a great job of heightening this tension with their commendable performances. Those familiar with Australian horror will be excited to see Robin McLeavy returning to the world of horror as a police officer who tackles Bower’s confusing case, even if her character is a far cry from the demented performance she delivered as a twisted killer in The Loved Ones.
There are a handful of scenes which are genuinely terrifying although some of these sequences appear to have been included purely for that purpose, and don’t actually progress the plot, which diminishes their impact somewhat and raises questions about the nature of the hauntings. A hackneyed conclusion lessens the effectiveness of an otherwise compelling story, and only serves to remind the viewer that this story has been told many times before, in a more effective manner.
Backtrack pulls together a number of horror influences and succeeds in providing audiences with an interesting storyline but key scenes are still derivative of the films that inspired it. As an intriguing diversion, Backtrack succeeds, but unfortunately it relies too heavily on recycling old ideas and struggles to breakout into new territory. A second rate The Sixth Sense or The Orphanage is still worth your time, however, those who are familiar with the horror genre run the risk of being underwhelmed by what is on offer here.
Review by Tom Bielby
Backtrack is out on home entertainment on 14 March.