There’s a point in Playback where highschool wannabe movie director Julian asks three friends to name their favourite horror movie. In quick succession they reply ‘The Ring’, ‘Scream’, ‘Freaky Friday’; naturally, everyone laughs at the last one.
And still, despite lead female Riley’s comic assertion that it’s both horrible and terrifying (“she turns into her mother!”), Freaky Friday could be said to be as much of a jumping off point for this movie as The Ring and Scream appear to be.
The film follows a group of friends who are making a short film about a bizarre murder which happened some fifteen years ago, on the outskirts of their very own town. We also meet another young whippersnapper by the name of Quinn – a loner who works at the local TV station archiving footage, which comes in handy when the pals want to borrow equipment or gather old news footage, though they’re less magnanimous when he wants to hang out and sniff some glue. Crazy.
From these humble beginnings we witness haunted film footage, teenagers in meta-peril and plenty of body swapping/possession; all of which remains heavily in the debt of the three above mentioned films. Indeed, there even a number of visual cues which recall The Ring directly, but then so what? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so the saying goes.
While it may not be the most original film in the world, you wouldn’t deduct marks for plagiarism; it wears its influences very much on its sleeve and doesn’t pretend to be doing anything that we haven’t seen before.
The only surprises are that we see at least one half-decent performance (from Toby Hemingway as Quinn); that Christian Slater appears more than once (as though on some community service punishment role); and that overall Playback is actually quite enjoyable.
This last was the most surprising of all as I expected this to be a sub-par B-Movie with lots of running, shouting, topless morons dying in a series of increasingly ridiculous ways.
As it turns out, Playback is actually a perfectly watchable B-movie with some well-paced suspense, half-decent performances and barely any morons at all. Nice work, gang.