The story of a school assignment where high school students are digging into the infamous history of their town, finding family murders which will, without them realizing, unlock an evil that possesses them and destroys them. Of course, we all know that Satan is the Prince of the Air and what better way to possess his victims but through video playback ... and later he actually uses them for harming others. Of course at the end we will find the deepest secrets of the town exposed - but nobody would care! Half of the audience already left... half of the ones left were already snoring and others were busy with different activities! And I did not blame them.
What a bore with ludicrous killing spree! Stay away!
The film's first segment is time coded at 1994. There's a few minutes of a bloody encounter where Harlan Diehl films a baby. The filming seems to form some sort of connection. The cops show up. Harlan attempts to flee with the baby, but the cops prevent that. The baby's mother Susie Diehl plunges a long knife in Harlan's back. He throws her down, pulls out the knife, jumps toward her and plunges the knife into her chest. The cops gift him with some bullets on the way down during the jump.
The film flashes forward to circa 2012. A young pre-indie film director, Julian, is looking at replays of his current shooting with his co-stars.
The next segment shows some of the teens in journalism class, playing soccer, planning parties, and doing it all with a slacker attitude. Julian meets Quinn, a man in his twenties who works at a television station (WPZM, Channel 13), to return recording equipment to Quinn. Julian takes the opportunity to ask whether Quinn's station has any records about Harlan Diehl's bloody death in 1994.
What could possibly go wrong here?
Quinn soon finds the Diehl footage from 1994, and has some interaction with it. That is, some supernatural (well, we'll see) exchange. Quinn delivers some illegal recordings of a girls' locker room to Officer Frank Lyons in exchange for cash. Later the same night he delivers footage about the Diehls to Julian at a teen party. He uses the chance to plant a camera in a girl's bedroom.
When Quinn's boss reads him the riot act about the mess in the archives at the station, Quinn kills him. The distinctive piece about the film is that whatever possessed Quinn does so via watching recorded footage.
What is this spirit after? Is there some way to stop it? Will there be a sequel after the next viewing of the strange tapes?
Cinematography: 6/10 Often dark to the point where much of the screen has no content. Full daylight scenes are OK.
Sound: 6/10 Mostly OK, but sometimes the volcanic bursts of loud noise have to be dealt with if one lives anywhere near other people.
Acting: 3/10 Not so good. Many of the actors look like tired people 25 to 30 years old, not teenagers. Example: Pacar was 31 in 2012. This is not Christian Slater's best work by any means. Daryl Mitchell gives the only performance I liked, and the few moments of clarity about the supernatural underpinnings of the film. The +3 is for Mr Mitchell, alone.
Screenplay: 4/10 Has a beginning, middle and an end. However, there is not much in terms of resolution, and the exposition of plot is weak.
Playback has the dubious distinction of being the lowest-grossing domestically-released American film of 2012 (it made a grand total of $252, playing on one screen for a single week). It's not the worst film I've ever seen-in fact, it's only the third-worst film I've seen today (and you never know, it might get worse after this!)-but that doesn't mean I would suggest you get within ten feet of a streaming copy of it.
We open in 1994, with a young chap named Harlan Diehl (Dogman's Luke Bonczyk) killing his entire family save his sister's baby before being shot by police. Fast-forward fifteen years, and a group of high-school students, working on a project for their journalism class, are investigating the Diehl murders, headed by Julian Miller (Purgatory House's Johnny Pacar) and his girlfriend Riley (The Master's Ambyr Childers). Julian enlists his stoner buddy Quinn (Black Swan's Toby Hemingway) to "acquire" some information that only the local police have access to; Quinn has an in to the police department in the form of Detective Frank Lyons (Christian Slater), an ephebophilic detective who keeps Quinn rolling in dough-or illegally-swiped evidence on the Harlan Diehl case, it would seem-in exchange for hidden-camera nudie-cutie flicks of the local hot high school chicks. The problem is, when Quinn gets his hands on the tapes, he finds that Harlan Diehl's legacy extends beyond the grave...
If you haven't figured out within ten minutes of this movie starting what happened to the baby from the opening sequence, you haven't seen enough horror movies. That sort of predictability, unfortunately, plagues this entire production. Once you know all the principal high school students, you should be able to pause the film, sit down, and sketch out a list of who's going to die when. And you know what? You'd probably be close enough to right to be extremely disappointed in this movie. And you have every right to be; Nickles, a character actor (probably best remembered for portraying Jim Morrison in Wayne's World 2) who abandoned the screen to go behind the camera, does absolutely nothing to meddle with the formula. This is depressing, because given some of the angles this movie adopts (it would probably contain a host of minor spoilers to go into any detail, but I will say that my favorite character in the film, Wylie, portrayed by Galaxy Quest's Darryl "Chill" Mitchell, is a video-store clerk and would-be film historian whom Julian finds himself consulting more and more as they get closer to uncovering the mystery of Harlan Diehl's motivations), Nickels had ample opportunity to bend some corners, kick some sandcastles, what have you. And he took none of them.
It's not necessarily a bad movie, but it is an extremely frustrating one, boring, predictable, and full of potential that will forever go unrealized. If you do end up watching it, well, you have my condolences. *
The best movie I have seen all year. Many people seem to dislike it, but I think that is just because they do not understand its message.