Still grieving over the death of his daughter, Bower is working to maintain a level of normalcy. Tucked away from the gloom of an unnamed Australian city, he slowly fears for his sanity when a series of his patients begin to exhibit behaviour a little odder than normal. The tipping point comes in the form of a young mute girl who gives Bower a clue to her identity. When she proceeds to vanish right before his eyes, things quickly go awry. Questioning his own sanity, Bower is forced to find out what links his patients - whom he quickly discovers are all dead - to a tragic event in his past. The story feels familiar yet with Brody at the helm and some inventive twists on the part of Petroni, Backtrack manages to maintain engagement. While the cheap graphics of ghosts unnaturally contorting their bodies are played for mild jump scares, the way in which Petroni opts to unfold his story is key.
Blessedly, the supernatural element is merely a footnote. The ghosts quickly take a backseat to Bower's unravelling mental state as he feels his way through a definitive moment in his past, turning the film into a neat psychological thriller. Moreover, Petroni's script is elevated by the addition of his leading man. As an actor skilled in looking tortured and troubled, this is precisely the sweet spot for Brody and while he ends up chewing the scenery with a tenuous Australian accent and a permanent grimace, Backtrack is never hampered. If anything, this is the kind of film that works best with Brody up front; in the hands of another actor, it could risk becoming a film best watched to pass time on the weekend. Instead, Backtrack plays as a tightly-wound drama working through themes of redemption and forgiveness. While it follows familiar genre beats, the work being done here is thoroughly engaging.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem