Playback (2012) Review – Not A Lot Of Playback Here

Yell! Magazine’s review of Playback (2012):

If you’re making a tech-heavy horror movie, chances are that technology is gonna be evil. For every triple-barreled shotgun and pulse rifle bestowed upon a protagonist to cure what horrors ail him, there are about 50 Evil Clutches, Brainscans, and Videodromes waiting in the wings for arrogant scientists, stupid teenagers, and curious spectators.

Refrigerator poster
Me, I’ve never looked at my fridge the same way again.

These films are often about science run amuck, the hubris of playing god, et cetera, et cetera. They prey on the audience’s inherent distrust of advancing society through science and technology. While a tired terror trope, the tech-gone-wrong storyline is an effective thrill and chill delivery system.

But then there’s the other evil tech movie. The one that takes good, old-fashioned science fiction out of the trope, replaces it with superstition, and lets the audience’s suspension of disbelief do the heavy lifting. I’m talking, of course, about the Haunted Technology Movie.

Trick or Treat
In a meta twist, my DVD of this is haunted by a shitty transfer.

It could be a possessed record (Trick or Treat), a doll animated by the soul of a serial killer (Child’s Play), a haunted video game (Stay Alive), or a ghost channeling video tape (The Ring), whatever it is it’s gonna rack up a reasonable body count by the end credits and make viewers think twice about the next time they hit up their record store, walk in their kids room, pop in a video game, or wax nostalgic over their VCRs (OK, that last one just applies to me).

Playback (2012) picture
An accurate depiction of what happens when you don’t blow into the NES before turning it on.

Playback is that sort of movie, only this time the evil is possessing digital video stock. Yes, you read that correctly; it’s about an evil box of DV tapes. These belonged to a serial killer who decimated his family in 1994 and filmed it all. Years later, a group of teens (led by Make It Or Break It star Johnny Pacar) are making a schlocky documentary about the murders. When a chemical huffing, sexual deviant (Toby Hemingway, Black Swan) gets ahold of some archived footage of the murders, he finds himself possessed by an evil spirit intent on decimating the teenage film crew for mysterious reasons.


While certainly ridiculous (not to mention anachronistic – DV tapes were launched in 1995), the idea of possession through digital media is an effective narrative tool, lending Playback a nice mix of voyeuristic hidden-camera and archive-style found-footage scares. The merging of these approaches in a conventional horror movie is unique and clever, alleviating any fidelity to that annoying loosey-goosey prevalent in found footage films.

Read about the verdict after the jump…

Playback (2012) poster
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
9 March 2012
Michael A. Nickles
Johnny Pacar, Ambyr Childers, Toby Hemingway, Jonathan Kletz, Jennifer Misoni, and Christian Slater
Horror, Thriller
Official URL:
Playback Official

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