The most annoying thing about Michael Petroni’s Backtrack is that it appears to start with potential – it’s leads are two of the most highly acclaimed working actors today; Sam Neill and Adrien Brody and whilst it does start rather by the books in terms of a ghost story revealing an unsavoury past, it does make all the right noises and shows all the right images to intrigue the audience. You may even be led to believe that as the twists start to come in thick and fast, it may bounce off the track of audience expectation and work up to an unforgettable twist.
Unfortunately this is not the case; as the first act comes to a close and it becomes clear what is going on in Peter Bower’s (Brody) life, it stagnates and slows almost to a halt in terms of pacing. Whilst both Neill and Brody don’t seem all that interested in the words, so whilst they have a natural flare for being on screen, it sadly isn’t enough to save this genre film destined to become just another ghost story in a long line of forgotten films.
Peter is a psychologist whose patients seem to be getting stranger and stranger as the days on (think The Sixth Sense-esque). He has had a tragedy at home and becomes haunted by visions and nightmares that keep him awake at night. At work he is visited by a young girl who doesn’t talk but she leaves him cryptic messages that lead him to believe he is being given a message about a terrifying secret from his childhood.
The second half of the film takes Peter away from his home and back to the eery town that he was brought up in, to figure out why he is being haunted once and for all. There is a feeling of nostalgia in the town for Peter and he tries his hardest to not remember something that was long forgotten about. The film suddenly takes a turn away from the generic conventions of a ghost story and becomes more mystery thriller in its intentions. By the time the reveal has taken place, this reviewer had lost interest unfortunately.
What Backtrack does do well is explore an interesting colour palette, filled with greys, blues, greens and blacks and Petroni’s camera explores the surroundings of the characters with an intriguing eye. This does, at least, lead us to believe that Petroni as a director has a lot of potential and maybe with a stronger story and script, may be able to create something interesting and provocative.
All in all, Backtrack was not an exciting watch – a shame despite having a lot of potential. As another in a long list of genre releases, it’s not the worst there is on offer.