Backtrack Blu-ray Review

'Backtrack' Blu-ray Review: A haunting genre gem

March 22, 2016Ben 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.

Written and directed by Michael Petroni (best known for his screenwriting credits on such films as The Book Thief and The Rite), Backtrack stars Adrien Brody as a man named Peter Bower, a psychologist and a husband tormented by the tragic death of his young daughter one year earlier. Peter's personal tragedy is just the beginning of his problems, though; for things get even more disturbing 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.

Both a psychological thriller and a ghostly mystery, Backtrack serves as a nice companion piece to the acclaimed Aussie chiller The Babadook, as both movies revolve around themes of grief and personal tragedy. And though this film is definitely more reliant on genre tropes, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as anyone who complained about The Babadook's lack of scares will certainly find ample 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 genre gem.

Backtrack arrives on Blu-ray accompanied by a proficient 1080p encode and a robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix. Much of the film takes place at night or in dimly-lit locales, which could have led to an underwhelming visual experience; however, that's not the case here, with the picture quality being quite sharp and uniformly detailed, bolstered by richly saturated colors, excellent black levels and strong contrast to make the appropriate portions of the image pop. Likewise, the film's nail-biting sound design is reproduced here with great results, as there's no shortage of eerie-sounding creaks and ghoulish groans, not to mention more jarring noises like sudden thumps and bloodcurdling shrieks.

VVS' one-disc Blu-ray release includes the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Director's Commentary - A rather slow-paced track in which writer/director Michael Petroni and director of photography Stefan Duscio discuss the film's script, the set design and filming locations, the wardrobe design, the cinematography and the lighting, the narrative and more.
  • Interview With Cast (16:10) - A series of interviews with actors Adrien Brody, Sam Neill, Robyn McLeavy and George Shevtsov and writer/director Michael Petroni, in which they each talk about such things as the film, the characters and the genre.
  • Behind The Scenes (6:59) - A selection of B Roll footage from the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (6:36) - Four scenes ("Constable Henning drives Peter home," "Constable Henning meets Peter," "Peter visits Elizabeth's school" and "William and Peter").

Backtrack is available from VVS Films as of March 22nd, 2016. The Blu-ray features English and French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks. The film is presented with English and French subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 30 mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my Toronto After Dark film festival review, published on October 21st, 2015.

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