Backtrack online movie review - Well executed but a few problems in the script
"Backtrack" is well executed. The acting and cinematography are competent and professional. Special effects are more than adequate. It economically manages to convey a sense of desolation, solitude and creepiness.
Horror films generally adhere to a simple basic formula. A sinful act unleashes a supernatural power that wreaks vengeance on the guilty, but spares the innocent and those who repent. Occasionally films like "The Sixth Sense" and "Ghost Town" effectively embellish the basic formula in novel, interesting and dramatically gratifying ways.
"Backtrack" deviates from the basic horror conventions, but does not provide anything superior and is inconsistent. Arguably innocent people are caused to suffer. The supernatural forces torment the protagonist who is not the sole or even the most guilty party. They seem to want his help or he wants their help, but they seem equally capable of interacting with the most guilty party without him. It's not clear whether they need the protagonist's help or they want to involve him in order to help him expiate his guilt. The supernatural forces do not have a consistent understanding of their status.
The supernatural forces do not behave randomly, but even though they operate in concert, it's not clear that they understand their purpose or the master plan. Their motives for particular actions aren't always clear. They don't always seem to be on the same page.
Some of the early scenes are ambiguous. It's not clear whether the protagonist is alive, dead, dreaming, deluded, hallucinating or what. We have dreary, foreboding scenes of abandoned buildings and streets and empty trains. Everybody who visits the protagonist seems unusual. He never interacts with anybody who seems entirely normal. Then suddenly, his world is populated, but the reason for the transition is unclear.
The movie would have been stronger with a clearer concept of who and what the supernatural elements were, why they did what they did and what they know or believe about the events in question. If they need the protagonist's assistance to discover who was the guiltiest, that could have been clearer. If they have several suspects, why torment only the protagonist? One of the supernatural entities knows the whole story. Why they don't go after the guiltiest party directly is unclear, except that a negligent act gave him some special insights, but that resulted in the death of an innocent, so the story is less satisfying.