Writer-director Michael Petroni’s 2015 film, Backtrack is a surprising horror movie that’s much better than a lot of recent genre releases. This well-acted Australian chiller stars Adrien Brody as a psychologist who must face past demons in order to solve a mystery that has been haunting him for 20 years. Sam Neill delivers support in this film which is a tonal cousin to M.Night Shyamalan’s 1999 genre classic, The Sixth Sense.
Backtrack is a ghost story that relies on the belief of the audience to make the central conceit work. If you buy into it then it’s an enjoyable and atmospheric piece of entertainment. Petroni gives his film a wonderfully morose tone and his dark but slick visuals help add to the eerie atmosphere that permeates the tale. Cinematographer Stefan Duscio helps make Backtrack one of the best looking horror films in years and the New South Wales settings give the film a rich gothic quality.
Adrien Brody had made some erratic choices since his Oscar win for The Pianist in 2002 but this is a good fit for his twitchy acting style. He turns in a measured performance and helps sell his character’s emotional turmoil and the supernatural elements of Petroni’s film.
Horror movies like Backtrack can often be derailed by the last act. It’s difficult to build a climax around paranormal entities, without straining credibility. You can often feel cheated by an ending that feels like it comes out of the blue, but Backtrack gives a satisfying ending that is both exciting and true to the nature of the story.
Backtrack is an atmospheric mystery tale that isn’t filled with jump-scares. It’s a slow burning ghost story that will satisfy those who like their horror movies with a foreboding mood rather than blood and gore.