Monday, 23 July 2012



My attention immediately captured by one review that described Playback as “Ring meets Halloween”, I envisioned an ingenious masterpiece derived from the concoction of two of my favourite horror films. Even when I heard that the cast included Christian Slater as the local cop, my hopes remained high and my fingers remained crossed as I held my breath for what could potentially be my “ideal” horror flick.

I needn’t have bothered. Within the first few scenes it was obvious that this was nothing more than a piece of mindless teen horror garbage- and not even a very good one at that- belonging to the genre’s relentless ‘junkmail.’ The likening of Playback to the marvel remake of the Japanese horror classic must have been purely its inclusion of a videotape and distorted TV screen, or perhaps the ill mention of it as one of the characters “favourite film.” As for its similarity to one of horror’s most legendary teen-slasher films…I’m still clueless to what it is.

The film opens in the past as we witness the live footage of a series of murders through the killer’s video camera. Fine. Jumping forward however many years, the communities hidden-but-not-forgotten secret is dug up by college student Julian (Johnny Pacar) to use for his school project on ‘what changed a community.’ But as he digs deeper into the infamous history of his town, he unlocks an evil; an evil back with vengeance and eager to possess and destroy anyone through video playback.

The plot plays out very much like this for an hour or so- a group of college kids trying to get hold of documents and stories. What gives the story a slightly more interesting disposition is when Julian’s friend Quinn (Toby Hemingway) comes across “the” video whilst working at a video sorting depot. After playing back the tape he becomes rapidly possessed, killing off Julian’s friends (none of whom we have any emotional connection to or association with) in a gruesome bloodshed form and possessing others by luring them to look into one of his hidden cameras and “zapping” them from his TV monitor. Other than that, I’m not sure what the significance of the handheld cameras was exactly, apart from capturing footage of naked girls to sell to corrupt-cop Christian.

I was left scratching my head, trying to work out if this was a story of the possession by an evil entity or indeed a slasher. I suppose we could applaud director Michael A. Nickles for entwining the two, despite the already implemented serial-killers-goes-viral formation. But its delivery is confusing and it comes across more as a disjointed jumble of concepts. What first appears to be a curse or entity full of revengeful purposes and even genetic motivations turns into a random massacre of teenagers who enjoy nothing more than pool parties, listen to dreadful music and be obsessed with a murder that happened two decades ago. It is for this reason that the acting is hard to comment on, the breadth of credibility automatically severely limited.

Even the climatic revelation of Julian’s former history in the film’s conclusion seems irrelevant, and the showdown between Quinn, Julian and his mum even less spectacular with hammy one-liners and a few too many gun shots. Unless for some reason you'd like to see Slater's head blown off by a shotgun, don't waste 1 hour and 38 minutes of your time with these teenagers!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Lovely Molly


It’s been over a decade since director and writer Eduardo Sanchez brought a new dimension to the horror genre in his, newly coined, “found footage” paranormal phenomena, The Blair Witch Project.

Now, thirteen years later and with only one other sci-fi horror flick under his belt (Altered, 2006), Sanchez is back to deliver more supernatural suspense in this years psychological horror, Lovely Molly.

Molly (Gretchen Lodge) takes up residence in her long-abandoned former family home with her new husband Tim (Johnny Lewis). But less than three months settled into their new home havoc emerges for the newlyweds as Molly feels she is being terrorized by a dark and malevolent presence in the house; someone in her past which should no longer be present.

The opening scene features a close-up of a distressed Molly filming herself with a camcorder, the screen date and time stamped. We then see a montage of previous camera film from Molly and Tim’s wedding. But Sanchez has more in his repertoire than just found footage; the film soon switches to the conventional film form, with the camcorder effectively being used intermittently to track Molly’s whereabouts and discoveries.  

The musical score by Tortoise sets it apart from the eerie paranormal experience as a constant blend of loud, boisterous and sometimes incoherent noise replaces patient, nail-biting silence and regular crescendos. Even the volume of the doors when they creak is intrusive on the senses. Sanchez’ use of the heightened level of sound to highlight the raucous nature of the spirit successfully creates raw fear rather than suspense, an interesting and appreciated approach in delivering a familiar plot.

What begins as a traditional bump in the night story with opening doors, sounding alarms and faint distant voices, turns more and more ominous. With Tim working away, Molly is left to confront her tormentor who follows her beyond the reaches of the house, shown in a memorable CCTV footage scene of her at work. Molly is desperate to prove her sanity, but as her psychological past is revealed, her drug use resurfaces and the truth about her sister Hannah's (Alexandra Holden) dark deed is uncovered, those that are close to her- and the audience- can never really be convinced.

So, is this a paranormal plot of demonic possession, a story of the evil that can be driven from the effects of addiction, or indeed a tragic tale of a woman losing her mind? True to form, Sanchez opens a can of worms and refuses to close it, delivering an ambiguous and indefinite ending. As the conclusion sees Molly walking slowly into the woods and her sister in the house being lured to the closet by the aura, the uncertain audience are left asking, “What happens next?”