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Australia/USA 2015
Directed by
Michael Petroni
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


Synopsis: Psychologist Peter Bower (Adrien Brody) is grieving the death of his daughter a year earlier in a road accident.  When he starts getting strange visitors to his rooms he begins to see a pattern, one that will take him back to his hometown in the north of the Australian state of Victorian  and a confrontation with a dark secret.

Writer-director Michael Petroni’s film, an Australian-American co-production, starts off well enough with, for those who know the locations, evocative use of Melbourne’s rain-swept CBD and it maintains a high level of visual polish.  Sadly, Petroni’s script, a conflation of a paranormal horror movie and dark crime thriller does not manage to sustain a comparable consistency.

The film starts promisingly in suggestive psychological mode with the best sad-sack money can buy, Adrien Brody, moping about his dead daughter and with remarkable obtuseness failing to see connections between her and an a patient of the same age until they are pointed out by his colleague, Duncan, played by Sam Neill. Gradually the living dead begin appearing and with remarkable equanimity Peter heads back to his childhood home where he (and we) know he will unlock some terrible secret that will allow his spectral visitors to return to the afterlife.  

Whilst by that point the film had started to become reiterative with its ghostly apparitions and jump-in-your-seat effects, once it shifts locations to country Victoria it really becomes tenuous as Petroni combines familiar fright-fest devices with crime movie tropes and demonstrates scant concern for the laws of narrative coherence as he leads us to a predictable finale. There is a twee coda but this fails to obviate the general feeling of indifference to at the glib resort to violence that is the outcome of Petroni’s film.

An unconvincing cobbling together of the fantastic and the realistic, despite its surface polish Backtrack is destined for an early grave and a short afterlife.




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