Horror films have delved deep into the realms of psychoanalysis and vice-versa either overtly or inadvertently since monsters first came to our screens to terrify audiences, these movies dealing as they all do with our deepest fears and darkest nightmares.
From The Invasion of the Body Snatchers investigation into what makes us human to Norman Bates loving his mother a little too much right up to Freddy stepping out of our subconscious to slay us, theories and concepts from popular psychiatric master minds such as Lacan, Jung and the daddy of them all phallic cigar smoking Sigmund Freud have crossed over into our fright fest flicks many times without us even noticing.
Backtrack is slightly more blatant than most about its psychoanalytical subject matter centering around Adrien Brody’s Australian psychologist Peter Bower who is dealing with the death of his young daughter due to an accident he feels ultimately and irreconcilably responsible for.
With his work in tatters and his wife in pieces he is referred a new batch of patients from his mentor Duncan Stewart (Sam Neill) including a young girl named Elizabeth (Chloe Bayliss) whose behavior and strange outbursts seems way beyond mental anguish and more into the realms of the supernatural.
Thrown into a complex mystery that leads him back to his home town of False Creek and drags up secrets and crimes from his teenage years Peter is pitted against the ghosts of his past in a literal and figurative sense as he attempts to uncover the disturbing hidden facts that haunts and taunts him.
The terrible and upsetting set up involving a child passing and the parents ultimate acceptance of that loss has been used in a vast number of horror movies most effectively in the excellent Mads Mikkelsen movie The Door and the hugely influential and disturbing Don’t Look Know.
Although at first full of clichéd motifs such as this and the predictable scares mainly revolving around creaking doors and insanely loud trains, Backtrack tries to innovate in other areas bringing to the fore the theme of repressed memory something prevalent and potent in psychology and key to Peter’s quest to reveal what his mind has concealed from him.
It is also highly novel and refreshing to see a horror thriller set in Australia with all Aussie actors and accents and except one nod to the U.S at the start in the form of an incongruous memory test question regarding who the current American President is, it proves audiences can handle films from across the globe as long as they are entertaining and engaging.
Taking an interesting turn 30 minutes in that most seasoned horror fans will be able to see straight away by revealing what many movies would have kept till the very end writer and director Michael Petroni, who also penned Queen of the Damned and The Rite, manages to keep the audience’s attention till the hugely Freudian finale where the truth irrevocably comes out.
A minor quibble comes from the sexist treatment of women who all seem to be victims within the films world just waiting around to be saved shockingly including police woman Officer Henning played by The Loved Ones star Robin McLeavy who should have been a far more powerful and capable character.
That said all the actors including McLeavy and Sam Neil’s are excellent and elevate the sometimes stilted story and script especially Adrien Brody who instantly adheres us to Peter with a powerful performance full of emotion portraying a man weighed down with guilt journeying into madness and back to unlock his suppressed psyche.
A solid supernatural thriller with a strong cast noteworthy for its look at the human minds capability when it comes to repression and remorse it almost seems Backtrack is prescribing a strong dose of paranormal interaction as a form of psychotherapy something I am sure old Sigmund would have had a lot to say about.