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'Backtrack' Toronto After Dark Capsule Review

October 21, 2015Ben MK

Horror movies come in all shapes and sizes: from spooky tales of spirits, to thrillers about killers, to stories of anguish and psychological trauma. Once in a while, a movie even comes along that combines all these different sub-genres into one — a movie like the Australian-made Backtrack, which stars Adrien Brody as a psychologist named Peter Bower, a man tormented by the tragic death of his young daughter one year earlier.

Things get even more disturbing for Peter when he realizes that his current patients — all of whom were referred to him by his former mentor (Sam Neill) — might in fact be ghosts, and that they all died on the same day in 1987. One of them in particular, a 13-year-old girl named Elizabeth Valentine (Chloe Bayliss), seems especially troubled, so much so that it prompts Peter to revisit his hometown of False Creek, the site of a long-forgotten trauma from his past. Could his daughter, the spectres that have been haunting him, and the event he's tried so hard to leave behind somehow share an eerie connection? As Peter struggles to piece together the fragments of the mystery, he gets closer and closer to unraveling the truth — and to understanding why he repressed those memories in the first place.

Written and directed by Michael Petroni, Backtrack follows in the footsteps of last year's Aussie chiller, The Babadook. It also serves as a nice companion piece to that film, as both stories revolve heavily around the themes of grief and personal tragedy, with Backtrack being the more formulaic of the two. The movie's reliance on genre tropes isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, as anyone who complained that The Babadook didn't contain enough visceral scares will certainly find more cause here to jump out of their seat. Factor in the strong all-around performances and the effectively creepy atmosphere, and that makes Backtrack a genuinely haunting Halloween gem.

Backtrack received its Canadian premiere at Toronto After Dark 2015, and was preceded by the short film Home Sweet Home. For these and more titles from this year's festival, visit

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