Backtrack is a splendid combination of horror and mystery. Set in Australia it deals with death, memories and how some things refuse to be forgotten. In some ways it could be seen as The Sixth Sense in the outback. There are, however, many other films that contribute to this intriguing story and at least one book. (It had overtures of The Survivor by the late James Herbert.) At least one sound effect came from Takashi Shimizu‘s The Grudge and it scared just as effectively in this film as the one it originated in.
Written and directed by Michael Petroni (The Rite, Queen of the Damned) Backtrack is first and foremost a mystery. Starring Adrien Brody, Sam Neill and Robin McLeavy the film slips the horror in where it fits. Sometimes resulting in a good old “jump scare” and other times leaving the viewer disturbed and not a little creeped out.
Before singing Brody’s praises (he does a marvelously understated Aussie accent that is spot on) let us look at McLeavy. This actress is no stranger to the horror genre. Her second feature length film was the brilliantly brutal and quirky The Loved Ones (2009). She was also in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (which really is rather schlocky compared to this offering) and while she “plays it straight” here she does her usual excellent job of selling her role.
McLeavy plays the local “PC Plod” who Brody’s character confesses to in the film. Robin is completely believable as the rather serious cop who has little patience for what she sees as messing about.
Brody’s character is a psychologist who has had more than his fair share of tragedy. His daughter is struck by a truck and killed while they are out together. Before that though, some of his past is so awful that he has “mis-remembered” it.
A young girl shows up in his office and the mute child silently asks for his help. This triggers events that begin to veer into the supernatural, or even paranormal, and Peter Bower (Adrien) is determined to get to the bottom of this issue.
Brody is so convincing with his subdued Aussie accent that if one had never seen him in anything else they would assume he came from the land down under. The Oscar winning actor shows just why he won that little gold man in this film. His suffering and fear are apparent but never over the top. The actor is just brilliantly spot on whatever the emotion.
Sam Neill plays a psychiatrist who is treating Peter and once again this Irish actor performs his magic on screen. Neill and Brody interact beautifully together and it helps to move the story on very well.
In terms of story to avoid spoilers the plot cannot be described in too much detail. There is a daughter’s death, a 20 year old train wreck and childhood secrets that have been forgotten over time. These secrets manifest themselves in many ways and ultimately it seems that they have been altered with time.
Director Petroni moves things along at an almost leisurely pace but never quite eases up on the tension. There are no false scares here. Petroni wants us uneasy and slightly afraid in varying degrees. Once the first reveal is made things pick up nicely and the horrible secret of Peter’s childhood does appear.
Once the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, one can look back on the film and with a little help from Petroni it becomes clear that all has been signposted from frame one.
Backtrack is a 5 star film. It may be slowly paced but the scares work well and the childhood revisit is both horrifying and tragic. Airing on Netflix at the moment, this is a great find. Check it out and see what you think.