Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Know why I love movies in conjunction with the Internet?  Because they educate me.  This movie 'Playback' is a convoluted mess of a demon possession film, but it did introduce me to Louis Le Prince, the man credited as the father of motion pictures who I learned via research was on his way to America to demonstrate this awesome technology he pioneered until he disappeared from the train station in 1890, without a trace, never to be seen again.  Now if somebody wants to tell a story, go ahead and devise a tale where a man who stood a good 6'4", and weighed in at over 200 pounds disappeared off the planet after arguably engineering the most significant technology in the history of everything.  Next thing you know Thomas Edison is taking the credit.  Hmmm….   But this about 'Playback' which is a convoluted mess of a demon possession film, but we said that already.

In '94 certifiable whackjob Harlan Diehl was in the process of murdering his mom and his sister while doing something really freaky with his sister's baby and a television.  Hell if we know what.  The cops show up, kill Harlan Diehl and that story is over.  As if. 

Fast forward to the present where long in the tooth high school student Julian Miller (Johnny Pacar) is finishing up a class assignment about showing something awesome about his small town by recreating the Diehl murders via a short slasher film.  Awesome.  I see a definite A+.  The thing is Julius just isn't getting all the info he needs, so he asks his ultra weird buddy Quinn (Toby Hemingway) to get some kind of archival footage from the TV station he works at, which Toby does but unfortunately in this footage he found, a dead Harlan Diehl looked at him in the eye and now he's all possessed and stuff.
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How in the heck did that happen?  It's got something to do with Louis Le Prince, and camera's capturing the soul and being possessed by the devil.  Hell if I know.  What I do know is that Quinn is off his rocker completely possessing people, killing people and torturing people even if we don't know exactly how or why he's doing it.   But Quinn, who might be Harlan… I'm not sure… has big plans for Julian… who might be Harlan… I'm not sure.  What I am sure of is that Christian Slater is in this movie.  Now if you were to ask me why he's in this movie and what purpose he actually serves… well we're right back in hazyville.  Hell if I know… which would pretty much be the running theme of 'Playback'.

The basics for writer / director Michael A. Nickles horror / thriller 'Playback' are pretty standard.  Crazy dude killing teenagers.  We got that.  In addition to the basics, the acting level was above average for this kind of film, some of which we could probably credit to the maturity level of these 'high school' students, particularly Toby Hemingway who was really creepy from the word jump in this movie.  I'm thinking some of this just might be genetics since the young man just looks creepy generally speaking.  Director Nickles also knows how to frame a picture and place his camera in the right spot at the right time, and I guess the basic concept of the narrative was okay, but the execution of this narrative is where Michael A. Nickles the writer kind of let Michael A. Nickles the film director down a little bit. 

Louis Le Prince probably got the short end of the stick and all, being labeled as satanic and stuff, but I dig that we're trying to build a mythology here.  They take one of his ten second short films of people walking in a circle and inform us that something about this short film is diabolically evil in some way.  I'm sorry but all of the eerie music in the world can't make a ten second black and white film about people walking in a circle look evil.  They're walking in a freaking circle and nothing remotely interesting happens while they are walking in this circle.  How this walking in a circle launched one man's soul into the camera, into another man, resulting in mass murder and crazed incestual relationships was a concept that needed some serious fleshing out and we got none of that.

Even if you just resign yourself to buying into the evil walking in circle people and Louis Le Prince jumping in the camera for no other reason than he's just an evil dude, then we have to navigate through the vague nature of the psycho high school kid and all of that nonsense.  I think he's possessed by Louis, he might be the lost baby, but when he possesses somebody else… is that a power he has or is Louis possessing them too?  Or maybe Julian is the lost baby.  But I think they said only a direct bloodline can be possessed by Louis.  I think.  Maybe Julian and Quinn are brothers.  It doesn't matter what wacky concept you can dream up because anything goes and it's not like this movie was helping us clear any of it up.

It's too bad really because all 'Playback' really needed to push itself over the Mendoza line was just a touch of clarity.  But then I'm not really all that bright so maybe it was clear, just over my head.  That's always a possibility. 
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