Adrien Brody’s surprisingly respectable Australian accent is the highlight of “Backtrack,” a high-class horror exercise that’s effectively moody but rarely scary. Fright fans more interested in thematic depth than visceral thrills may appreciate what writer-director Michael Petroni attempts, but even they’d likely admit there’s not much to savor.
Brody plays Peter Bower, a psychologist struggling to reckon with a recent accident that claimed his daughter’s life. When he notices a paranormal connection among his current patients, Peter returns to his hometown to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Sam Neill has a nothing role as the hero’s backstory-spilling mentor, while Robin McLeavy brings spark to the second half of “Backtrack,” playing a local cop with her own link to Peter’s case.
Petroni is best known for writing the adapted screenplays for “Queen of the Damned” and “The Book Thief,” and he has a nice eye as a director too, conveying his protagonist’s melancholy via deep, screen-consuming shadows.
But while everyone involved with “Backtrack” is a polished pro, the movie’s tastefulness gets in the way of the suspense. Conflating grief and ghosts is a fairly common approach in horror, but filmmakers usually make sure to mix a few jolts in with the moping.
MPAA rating: R, for violence, disturbing images and language
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: AMC Burbank Town Center 8