This month’s instalment of the Metal Hammer Screening Club comes from the Aussie mystery thriller, Backtrack.
This unsettling and horrifying supernatural thriller focuses on psychologist Peter Bower (Adrien Brody) and his wife Carol (Jenni Baird), a couple struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of their young daughter.
While Carol spends most of her waking hours in a medicated cloud, Peter resumes his day job and attempts to move on with his life. Unfortunately, his recuperation is hindered by the sudden appearance of a schoolgirl at his office, who mysteriously vanishes before he’s able to ascertain either who she is or what she wants. Confiding with his mentor (Sam Neill), Peter reluctantly accepts that the girl could be the manifestation of his dead offspring, which throws up a further dilemma – is he being haunted, or is he a contender for funny farm? Peter’s search for answers take him on a terror trip that leads back to his childhood home, where he’s forced to face up to a dark secret from his past.
As well as containing on point performances from all involved (in particular the tormented Brody, who’s no stranger to horror thanks to such films as Predators and Splice) what ultimately makes Backtrack such a compelling creepfest is writer/director Michael Petroni’s masterful use of scare tactics to generate a wholly unsettling atmosphere – in both the sight and sound departments. Okay, while some of the plot’s supernatural aspects may seem familiar, and yes, there are a whole heap of de rigueur loud noise/jump scare moments, he still manages to deliver the goods without slipping into cliché territory.
Those familiar with Petroni’s previous screenplays (which include exorcism drama The Rite, and mainstream box-office gold The Book Thief) will already know he’s capable of spinning a killer, character-driven yarn, and this highly emotive exercise concerning one individual’s battle with overwhelming guilt proves it to the max. He repeatedly peppers proceedings with slow reveal clues that inform, but which never give too much away; allowing viewers to run with the mystery right through to the finale – which is as explosively traumatic as it is unexpected.
Although Backtrack has been compared to a collision between fellow horror fare Insidious and The Sixth Sense, while there’s no denying there are some thematic similarities, this a much subtler affair than either – one that drips with its own personal style of chills and unease.
Come watch Backtrack at Silver Screams on February 18. Silver Screams is an exclusive event for TeamRock+ Members in the UK. Further details will be sent to members via email.
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