JUNE 11, 2012
Miraculously, Playback actually had a minimalist theatrical release in the spring, but not in LA as far as I know, so I had to wait until DVD to say “Why did this get a theatrical release?” It’s not even a terrible movie, but it’s crushingly bland, tossing together plot points cribbed from The Ring and any random teen slasher without any sense of style or purpose, and generally just going through the motions from start to finish. It’s the cinematic equivalent of your morning commute; you just go on autopilot and suddenly you’re at work without any real memory of getting there.
Perhaps there’s a big star in the movie that netted it more attention? Well, sort of – Christian Slater is certainly a bigger draw than his fresh-faced co-stars, but a lot of his films go direct to video these days, even decent ones that he stars in. So that can’t be it, and even if it was, it’s not a very flattering role for the guy: a perv cop who pays a kid from the AV club to install cameras in the girls’ locker room for him to jerk off to. He only has about 10 minutes of screen time, and his role is entirely inconsequential – Slater deserves much better than this sort of junk. Hopefully Bullet in the Head will be a big hit when it comes out (it stars Slater and Stallone and is directed by Walter Hill – lot of folks to root for there).
Anyway, again, the movie is sort of a Ring ripoff; early on someone watches a tape of a police investigation of a murder scene, and he becomes this zombie looking thing that starts picking off a group of friends who are making a horror movie about that murder. But he keeps filming stuff, so there’s some found footage-ish feel to the movie as well, presumably as part of its unsuccessful attempt to be awesome by trying a little bit of everything. If they had the money I bet a vampire or crab monster would have shown up as well.
There’s even a rather inconsequential mystery revolving around a baby at the center of the tragic murder. It doesn’t take any effort at all to determine that the baby has grown up to be one of the kids in the group, and you might burn 3 or 4 brain cells figuring out who specifically it is. However it’s not even worth that minimal effort, as the answer comes with no fanfare or any real effect on the plot at all. It’s basically an “Oh, OK” moment; like if Die Hard played out exactly as it does now but somewhere after jumping off the roof McClane found out that Argyle lied to his boss about going to Vegas. If it doesn’t have any effect on the way the rest of the movie plays out, don’t wait so long to reveal it. It should have been an act 2 reveal at the latest, giving us some worry that the character might turn evil or something. But by the time the person discovers the secret about their upbringing, the movie’s practically over, and the villain is clearly established.
One thing that DID work about the movie was that it took place in the real world. When asked about scary movies, the answers are Exorcist and Scream (natch), not made up nonsense like “Axe Killer 7”. Likewise, the bands that they talk about are real; one kid mentions 30 Seconds To Mars as being his first concert (must suck when your first concert features a singer who leaves most of the vocals up to the audience), and there’s an honest to god subplot about tickets for a Shiny Toy Guns show. Being a low budget production, you’d expect the usual generic names for this sort of stuff, so it was a nice surprise, even if it ultimately didn’t mean much. Speaking of music, the score was another sore point; it was all this bad industrial-ish sounding garbage that didn’t fit the movie.
But it got a theatrical release, and Trick R’ Treat didn’t, so they must be on to something.
What say you?