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Now Playing in Doha ! : Playback

Mar 07, 2013

Reem Shaddad
Hi guys. Reem and Emily here, back for another – wa-haaay overdue – ‘She said, She said.’

Emily C. Reubush
Nothing like an annual celebration of our opinions.

RS
Amen. Today, in keeping with this week’s terror-ific editorial theme celebrating the horror genre, we’ve reviewed ‘Playback’. Equally scary, in every respect.
(Mostly I mean the acting).

ECR
It wasn’t thaaaaat bad.
… well, it wasn’t ALL thaaaat bad.

RS
Before we break this down, let’s remind readers of our filmic personas. Emily?

ECR
I like a bit of it all. My desert island film (as noted on my DFI Mobile) is ‘The Big Lebowski’ , which sort of sums it up. I love to laugh (loud and long and clear), but I need a bit of mental stimulation in there. Pretty much anything… except horror.

RS
Hi, my name is Reem and I am a Guillermo del Toro -aholic, i.e. Emily and I are basically polar opposites. I’m pretty much a fantasy, sci-fi and horror nerd. I like my fair share of laughs, but often get fixated on sub-genres for chunks of time. Currently I’m on a gothic horror/house invasion fix – e.g. ‘We Are What We Are’ , ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ , ‘Ils’

ECR
Yep. So I wasn’t sure about being taken into a horror film specifically to get my horror-averse opinion. Ironic, then, that I came out with the higher opinion of ‘Playback’.

RS
Did you?! Let’s take this one (disastrous) piece at a time. The general idea: So basically, we’re introduced to a bunch of teenagers (sub-genre number one), who are re-enacting scenes of a gruesome and mysterious town murder for a class project. Mistaaaake. Throw in all the quintessential teen stereotypes: token couple ( Johnny Pacar / Ambyr Childers ), token bad girl/boy ( Jonathan Keltz / Alessandra Torresani ) and token loner ( Toby Hemingway ). Wow, who saw that loner thing coming?!

ECR
Yeah yeah yeah. There was also the innocent and vaguely spacey (older?) sister ( Jennifer Missoni – yes, of THE Missonis)… and… the cop. Oh, Christian Slater .

RS
A cop boasting an unhealthy obsession with said innocent older sister. Unnecessary character alert! And potentially the most random career choice Christian Slater has ever made.
Also – sub-genre number two.
So where are we at? Yup – teens re-enact gory, unsolved murder as part of report on history of community, teens decide to dig deeper into story, teens slowly uncover demonic twist (sub-genre number three) to the creepy tale.

ECR
So there’s some background to the plot to know: in 1994 a family was murdered by their adopted (then teenage) son. With some digging, it is discovered that this nutjob was the descendant of Louis Le Prince, who captured the first moving picture – about three seconds’ worth of it. We find that there was a legend that this man was (drumroll) the devil, spawning from the old superstition that photos take a little bit of your soul and this man, who had discovered a way to take movies of people, had therefore found a way to take their souls entirely.

RS
Enter plot lifts from: ‘Videodrome’ (souls captured by television), ‘White Noise’ (communicating with the Other Side) and ‘Angel Heart’ (devil spawn).

ECR
Maybe that’s why I didn’t dismiss this film quite as much as you, Reem. I am the uninitiated, and didn’t spot those ‘lifts’. I found the soul-snatching idea interesting, knowing of the superstition with photographs. And they did give a shout out to ‘Angel Heart’, didn’t they?

RS
Yep. Enter token nerd on a wheelchair (seriously, Darryl Mitchell?) who somehow holds the key to the entire mystery. (I’m lol-ing.)

ECR
So the loner, Quinn, who works in the basement of the local news station archiving footage, is asked by the protagonist, Julian, to find some file footage of the news reports of the murders, to use for his project. Unfortunately, he decides to watch it first, and an eeeeevil spirit that was apparently hiding in that bit of celluloid on the back of a shelf for 20 years leaps into him.
(Oh, by the way: Reem, I’m not going to be in any more of our film pieces from now on.)

RS
Enter possession! (Sub-genre four!). Quinn (the loner) is then on a mission for the remainder of the film, apparently egged on by his ‘rejuvenated’ evil self, to ACTUALLY re-enact the scenes of the original crime. Why? That is something we cannot give away, but it has to do with a descendant of Louis Le Prince.

ECR
By the way, since Louis Le Prince was French and so his three-second film would’ve been in French (if there had been any sound), I proclaim that this ties in with our Francophone Cinema Week . BOOM!

RS
stare
Aaaaanyway. I proclaim this film a mess. It doesn’t know what it wants to be. There’s a bit of every other horror released in the last 25 years, questionable casting,over-acting (Alessandra Torresani/ Jonathan Keltz) and a plot more unsettled than a Mexican jumping bean.

ECR
Yeah, I do concur some of your points – not the most fabulous acting by most of the supporting cast (though I’ve seen much worse). However, Pacar did a pretty bang-up job as Julian, Hemingway as the loner/possessed Quinn was a good enough villain, and of course the veteran Christian Slater filled out his own creepy little role nicely.
As for the film, I appreciated what it was trying to be, even if it didn’t quite make it there. Side note, this only originally ran on one screen in the US and only for a week, so it seems some others agreed with you. Still, I don’t think it’s a total loss. If you want to go to the cinema and don’t feel particularly strongly about anything, check this out. If nothing else, see a nice performance by Pacar, who I hope to see a lot more of in the future.

RS
I’m not sure I agree with you on the Pacar note. For someone who’s investigating a murder, is a die-hard horror buff and just might have a bit of Lucifer in him, it was ever so slightly… square, in a lot of places.
I do agree re: Hemingway, though. I can’t quite recall how he was in ‘Black Swan’, but he did pull off the grungy/depressed/possessed thing quite well.

ECR
Okay, so the devil gets your seal of approval. Anything else?

RS
I did actually enjoy the original music by Woody Pak. After looking him up, it seems this may have been his, err, diamond in the rough?
Also, the sections of the film that were portrayed as found footage were the most powerful, IMHO. Those scenes housed the best scares. Funny as it was to see the devil try and capture someone’s soul with a smartphone.

ECR
Indeed, it seems modern technology is a boon for the dark lord. As for the found footage, waaaaaay too many static-y cuts that were way too obviously digital. It’s the little details that tend to bother me.
So let’s wrap this up. Yea, Nay or Meh?

RS
I think I’m getting soft in my old age. In spite of all my humbug, I think the film is definitely a popcorn-filmie’s potential cup of tea. Hemingway gave a solid (and rather chilling) performance, plus a hearty dash of blood and gore, have swayed me to a solid Meh.

ECR
Wow, I’m surprised it came out so shiny for you. As for me, I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. A solid Meh from me as well.

Verdict
She Said: Meh, the other She Said: Meh

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