Movie Review: Playback (2012)

September 7, 2012

Obligatory FYI: If you hate bad movies, I know that you won’t like Playback, and you probably already know that you won’t like Playback. So I’m going to save you three minutes and assure you that you aren’t interested. I don’t mind if you stick around though, it just might be redundant. To everyone else, this review might contain useful information!

Written and directed by Michael A. Nickles, Playback follows five friends in high school completing a school project. The assignment is to do research on a significant event in the town’s history and present the research to the class. Being a Horror fan and an aspiring filmmaker, Julian (Johnny Pacar) determines that the obvious thing is to make a Horror short based on a family murder which devastated the town roughly 15 years earlier, and is largely covered up. Unfortunately Julian and his friends have to learn the hard way that some secrets are better left untouched.

I have to give props to Playback because of a few little things that go a long way. This film is so obviously inspired by The Ring even in the beginning that I was disappointed in it. But at a party scene about 21 minutes into the movie, Julian asks three of his friends:

Top Horror film of all time? Go!

Nate (Jonathan Keltz) replied with The Ring, DeeDee (Jennifer Missoni) said Scream, and Julian’s girlfriend Riley (Ambyr Childers) claimed, of all things, Freaky Friday (Turning into your mother is terrifying and creepy).

Those happen to be the three films that Playback obviously got the most inspiration from, and credit was naturally written right into the film said from the mouths of the characters. That leads me to want to give this movie a little bit of respect, because I’ve never seen sources cited in that way before. It’s obvious that Nickles intently tried to not pass his movie off as all his own idea, where other filmmakers often commit outright theft.

Another thing that goes a long way is that the main characters are likeable and their friendship believable. Anyone who says otherwise was obviously in a bad mood prior to watching Playback. The five friends are a bit sweet with each other, and some of the banter is fantastic. As an example, as Julian is editing their movie, he asks Nate what he thinks. This is the dialogue that followed:

Nate: It’s all kind of shaky and shitty.

Julian: Shaky? It’s a handheld, It’s supposed to be shaky. It gives it a sense of energy.

Nate: Is that what you filmmakers call it? Well, just so you know, the rest of us call that “headache”.

Maybe it’s just me but I love that stuff. And with that particular example I agree with everything that Nate says! Shaky cam is definitely something I would call “headache”.

I dig the characters and their relationship together, I enjoy little things like crediting the movies that inspired this one in character dialogue, and on top of that the gore isn’t half bad. And for what Playback is, the acting, writing, and directing are all fine. People heavily knocking this movie need to get off of their high horse and have a beer.

Speaking about the stuff that isn’t half bad, what is half bad with Playback? The worst thing that I noticed is that it took me probably 20 minutes to begin learning the characters’ names. It really shouldn’t have taken me that long to care, infact I can’t recall a time it took me that long to remember names. Your mileage may vary depending on how photographic your memory is, but that’s a standout problem. Probably the other biggest problem is the lack of originality, sure. And finally, the ending is a bit third-rate.

I watch a whole lot of terrible movies and I watch very few good ones. So as an aficionado of bad films, I can assure you that Playback is on the higher tier of the bad stuff. There’s way worse films out there to see. Playback is currently available on Netflix and if you dig bad Horror as I do, you’ll want to catch this one.

Edit: Also, forgot to mention, Daryl Mitchell has a cameo. Some of you will appreciate that.

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