|Poster for The Girl In The Photographs from Vertical Entertainment|
In the same way Richard Hammond should be forcibly removed from the vehicle he is undoubtedly in when he says "just one more run", or "watch this". I should shut off the movie I'm about to watch when I mutter the phrase "sounds like an interesting premise". This is not a new notion, I had this epiphany many years ago. So long ago now I can't remember what actually caused it. The trouble is, I usually fail to listen to this pretty sound advice...and that's why I find myself writing this review...
Browsing the options on Shudder (think Netflix for horror nuts) one evening I stumbled across The Girl In The Photographs. My passion for photography and my passion for horror films fused, and it had an interesting sounding premise...'A bored young woman in a sleepy community called Spearfish starts receiving photographs of brutally murdered young women. Are they real or staged? The culprit is either a serial killer or some creep with a sick sense of humour.'
Another deciding factor in my choosing to watch The Girl In The Photographs was the involvement of Wes Craven as executive producer. It was actually the last project Craven worked on before he sadly passed away and the film is dedicated to him. Whilst I have admired Craven and his work for many years, and I can understand wanting to impress him, one problem I have with the film is it feels less like a film with homages to the great man, and more like a film desperately trying to appear as if he himself made it. To give an example of this, the film opens with a fairly recognisable actress killed off very quickly...a la Scream.
Speaking of Scream. Where Scream and other successful horror films work well is in the characters. Making them relatable, likeable, and/or making them grow as a person. All these things make you invest in the character, it makes you root for them, it gives you that AWWW moment if something happens to them. I can only assume the makers of The Girl In The Photographs don't want you to suffer that emotional turmoil because none of the characters are that likeable. The 'lead' Colleen spends the majority of the film looking miffed. The 'token good guy' is beyond boring. The 'token cops' are useless and uninterested. The 'token jock' and 'token cheerleader' types are bitchy, and as far as I can tell only in the film for the obligatory sex leading to death scene. Worst of all is the 'token prick', in this instance Kal Penn's Peter Hemmings, a photographer and absolute prick of the highest order...this is purely conjecture on my part but I suspect he's based on a photographer who's name rhymes with Rerry Tichardson.
Visually, the film is stunning. Mind you, with someone like Dean Cundey (Halloween, Back To The Future, Jurassic Park) working on it, it's no wonder.
The story and characters decisions, even by horror movie standards, felt illogical to me. To me it felt like they had some ideas set in stone, but the 'inbetweens' were almost an afterthought. As well as the bizarre choices, some stuff seemed unnecessary. At the risk of ridicule from my wife and proof reader, the sex tape scene between the 'token jock' and 'token cheerleader' served, to my mind, no real purpose. I'll go one further to illustrate my point. Towards the end is a scene that is both illogical and unnecessary. When shit has really hit the fan Colleen tries to find a hiding place, in case someone comes in through the door. Colleen's hiding place of choice, under a desk. A classic of the horror movie genre. The problem, the gap she is in faces the door offering her no cover whatsoever. I can only guess, and this is purely a guess, but I think the whole point of this scene was the Michael Bay like close up of her arse in denim short shorts as she crawled.
The ending...the cherry on top...proving to me I really did waste an hour and half of my life. In a lot of horror films, especially slasher films, there's a showdown at the end between the crazy (or crazies) and the final survivor(s). Sure, afterwards you often get a jump scare laying the groundwork for a sequel, but you get a showdown. The end of The Girl In the Photographs however, lets just say it doesn't follow the tried and tested fan favourite formula...whilst bloody, it's anti-fucking-climatic.
Whilst the film is, meh, the kills are bloody, and for the most part grounded in reality, which I applaud them for. Whilst I don't expect that much realism in horror, basic human biology can't be ignored when people are getting stabbed, decapitated, strangled and the like. Well, it can, but the ridulousness can often detract from the horror making it farcical. Also, I personally have always found the 'wacko with weapons' a scarier villain purely because it's an actual possibility.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not highbrow with my movie choices. Nor do I expect that much story, or realism within a horror movie. A little story, motivation, character progression, or a reason to root for the characters would be nice. Sadly, The Girl In The Photographs has none of these, and it's flaws completely overshadow a few decent kills and some impressive visuals.