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The technology here, of course, is video cameras and video tape, a technology that’s been around for decades, but one that continues to be interlaced into our daily lives, thus still making it a big issue for some people. Playing off the old superstition that, when taking a picture of someone, the camera is stealing a bit of their soul in the process, PLAYBACK doesn’t villainies video, but rather has evil use the technology for its own evil purposes—by sucking ones soul out through the TV by use of cameras, while simultaneously posses them with evil spirits. Sounds complicated, right? Yes well, it is and it isn’t—and that’s the thing about PLAYBACK: the concept seems very high-level and complicated, but when playing it out, it’s actually quite straight-forward. It’s just hard to easily describe/explain it to someone.
Beyond the concept though, is your typical post-SCREAM group of high school kids making their very own “found footage” movie, and while they don’t talk about other found footage flicks with knowledge (no PARANORMAL ACTIVITY name dropping here), the kids are pretty self-aware and know their shit about movies (the main dude even works at a video store). For the most part, the main group of kids are likable enough, even if they look more like college students than high school students, but again… this is a horror flick with high school kids, so of course they’re going to look hella older than they’re supposed to.
Christian Slater is all up in the box art and marketing for this movie, but really he’s such a minor character that he only just deserves an “and” credit and nothing more. He plays a cop who’s also a pedophile of sorts, which means he’s a dirt bag on more than one level, and yet… the film sort of tries to make him likable for some reason, which was odd. He gets off on peeping at naked high school girls, but he’s a cop, so his moral compass should be above that… but it’s not. Weird. That said, Slater gives a pretty solid performance here, so no complaints on that end.
And that’s the biggest take home message about PLAYBACK: it delivers what it sets out to do, but doesn’t go above and beyond. It’s very much so an average little horror/thriller, and while it lags a bit in the middle, once it revs up it goes strong through the end. The concept is cool and using the video tape as a device to transport evil from one person to another uses the technology in a way that’s similar to that of VIDEODROME in a way, but not (and thankfully, it’s not a complete rip-off of shite like THE RING, either). At the same time, the scares are just so-so, and the story itself is just OK. There is, however, a ton of blood when there needs to be, delivering some solid blood splatter with each death, which I totally wasn’t expecting.
And there’s even some found footage sequences that actually worked quite well in the confides of the fact that it’s still an actual real movie (i.e., not a found footage movie). I didn’t always care for the splicing of video tape static, which gets loud and obnoxious at the end, but the film’s opening found footage sequence had some rather terrifying moments, and for that I give it props.
Audio: The sound is mixed in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and it delivers what you'd expect--no more, no less.
Photo Gallery: Once again, captain obvious on the extra features here, this one features 71 images (behind the scenes and otherwise) from the making of PLAYBACK as well as official publicity stills.
HDNET: A Look at Playback: A good old fashioned run-of-the-mill making-of featurette, with interviews with the director and a bunch of clips from the film--almost like an extended trailer with the director's narrative.
Trailers: You get the trailer for PLAYBACK, as well as a bunch of other flicks coming from Magnolia Home Entertainment.