Playback (Blu-ray Review)

I’m always on the look out for low budget independent horror films, so when I saw the tagline for Playback read: Some secrets should stay buried, I was like cool! Throw in Christian Slater into the mix and we definitely got something brewing that could be special. I even like the cover art. Magnolia’s “Magnet” genre pictures label presents Playback, a horror movie that will do its best to scare up thrills and such. Will Playback succeed or will it make you wish your Blu-ray player had a rewind button? That’s what we’re here to find out, so don’t touch that dial. Do televisions even have dials anymore? Nevermind.



Playback is the latest independent low budget film starring a bunch of young people you’ve never heard of, which includes someone that you have heard of: Christian Slater. No, he’s not the main star, but it’s kind of cool to see him in anything nowadays. Unfortunately, this is not one of those films that works out in the end.

Julian (Johnny Pacar) and his friends all team up to film a reenactment of the town’s famous Harlan Diehl’s family murders for a school project project. Little do they know that the Diehl’s held a supernatural secret of their own before they were all killed by a family member. Julian’s friend, and misfit outcast Quinn works at the local television station and is Julian’s equipment liaison aka hook-up with the camera gear.

What Julian doesn’t know is that in doing research at the station and going through tapes of the original murders, Quinn unleashes an ancient evil that is hellbent on returning back to the world of the living. This evil uses the magic medium of the camera and television to basically swap and take over bodies. Soon after the swapping of the first body, I totally forgot or stop caring why the evil was doing what it was doing. It’s not that it didn’t make sense, because quite frankly it didn’t, but I didn’t get the origin portion of the story. It lost me. I was like, okay, and now you need to repeat yourself one more time to make sure I got it. I didn’t get it.

I initially had an open mind about Playback – it starts of really strong, but goes downhill really fast. All of the high school kids are supposed be, well, high school aged, but no one in this film is under the age of 25. Christian Slater plays it up as a pervert police sheriff who gets off on watching video clips of girls in the locker room that Quinn supplies him in exchange for cash. This is problematic in that the marketing of the materials for Playback frame Slater as the hero of day. Yeah, no. In fact, ewwwwwww.

What really brings it down a whole bunch of notches is that the film gets very incoherent early on. It also doesn’t help that for such a short film (98 minutes including credits) it drags and feels like it’s much longer. I do think that there’s enough material here for a television show or maybe as part of a horror anthology, but it just doesn’t work as a film. It’s incoherent, badly edited, badly paced, and the story could have used a massive overhaul.

I do give it props for actually being made, because as a horror fan, we need all the help we can get when it comes down to releasing new horror material for the world to see. Playback just isn’t very good. If at first you don’t succeed then try again, because the filmmakers DO have lots of potential.



Playback is presented in 1080p, 1.78:1, widescreen. I don’t really know what when on during filming or after the filming for that matter, but Playback looks really weird in places. There are times where the image has an almost “too digital” look going on before it switches over to a more “film” like mode. I can usually tell when it’s done for stylistic purposes, but it doesn’t look that way here. Flesh tones look natural and unnatural, depending on who is getting possessed or whatnot. DNR has been kept in check, but softness creeps up during CGI enhanced close-ups of the actors while under demonic possession. Hey, the devil needs clean pores, too. The video score gets split down the middle, because even though some shots look bad there are other shots that look really good. It’s only fair to grade it that way. 


Playback is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Okay, so where Playback loses steam in the video department, it more than makes up for it in the audio. This is one scary ass audio presentation. Dialogue is clean, clear, and crisp. There’s never any clipping or echoing, no matter how loud or aggressive it gets. The LFE channel rumbles and shakes, but that’s to be expected when the devil shows up. The different uses of shaky-cam are put to the test, as the rear channels send in background noises that encapsulate the viewer from all around. I may not have liked the film itself, but there’s no denying that Playback has a pretty kick ass soundtrack. It’s loud, too.



You’d think that they (whoever) would try to pad the Blu-ray up with some semi-decent  supplements, but we don’t get that at all. We have extras that probably add up to around a whole 10 minutes or so and it’s mainly of the fluff variety. There’s a short behind-the-scenes, photo gallery, trailer, and the usual HDNet promo. Fin.

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Photo Gallery
  • HDNet: A Look at Playback
  • Trailer



Playback could have been a decent little horror romp, because it definitely has a more than adequate budget for it, but the script is a mess, so more time and effort should have been put into that than into some of the decent visual fx. The gore fx are great, though, but the overall product plays like a CW Network reject. If you’re really curious about the film then I would suggest waiting for it to stream somewhere like Netflix or Amazon rather than buying the actual Blu-ray. Seriously, you’ll thank me for it.




Order Playback on Blu-ray!



Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

2 Responses to “Playback (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Glad I skipped this one!

  2. Gregg

    Wow what a bust. I’ve found a good handful of horror films miss the mark in casting actors that are supposed to look young enough to play high school parts. Many look like they’re well into their college years. Beside, is there really any other horror movie this year than Cabin in the Woods? I’m having massive withdrawal from not being able to see that right now. What a fun, kick ass movie that was.