The Girl in the Photographs full movie review - "The Girl in the Photographs" is a picture that you should take in.
Sadly, horror movie maestro Wes Craven died of brain cancer on August 30, 2015. The final film in which he was personally involved was "The Girl in the Photographs" (R, 1:35) (as an executive producer).
That movie was first shown publicly at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) barely two weeks after Craven's death, both events marking the end of his 45+ years in the film industry. Although he did some work in other genres, Craven is best known for his innovative and popular approach to horror. Among his cinematic creations are the original versions of "The Last House on the Left" and "The Hills Have Eyes", which led to the "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" franchises, as well as other sequels and remakes of some of his early films, so they could be updated, and then discovered by new generations of horror fans. Whether you like it or not, "The Girl in the Photographs" (directed by Nick Simon, written by Simon, Oz Perkins and Robert Morast) represents Craven's last direct contribution to horror cinema. So, I guess the questions we have to answer now is what IS there to like about the film, and what? not? Colleen (Claudia Lee) is a bored grocery store cashier in the small town of Spearfish (in west central South Dakota). She's about 20-years-old, pretty, and in a rut. Collen has that job, a weasley jerk of a boyfriend named Ben (Toby Hemmingway) and? not much else. She feels like her life is going nowhere fast and there's nothing worthwhile on the horizon, but her life is about to get a lot more? interesting.
One ordinary morning when Colleen is the first employee to arrive for work, she finds an 8 ½ x 11 inch photograph in the middle of the store's bulletin board. The photo shows a young woman who appears that she has been brutally murdered. Naturally, Colleen immediately takes the ghoulish pic to local law enforcement, but Sheriff Porter (Mitch Pileggi) tells her there's nothing he can do based on that one picture, which might show nothing more than someone's sick sense of humor. "No body, no crime," is how he sums up the situation. He's right, but she grows increasingly frustrated. That photo was only the first of several Colleen finds. They get more and more gruesome, but there is still no evidence of a crime. Besides, Colleen has not been threatened in any way and there's always the possibility that the pictures have nothing to do with her and aren't even for her? until one ends up on the windshield of her car.
Peter Hemmings (Kal Penn) is a Los Angeles photographer who specializes in artistic and often disturbing images. He reads about the very upsetting photos on the internet. Peter's upset too, but not about the subject matter. He's upset that he didn't think of it first. He takes the photographs as a personal affront. He doesn't know who the photographer is or why he would be taunting Peter, but Peter is sure the photos are aimed at him. He was born in Spearfish and, well, he's a famous photographer, so? this has to be personal? right? Peter decides to head home for a photo shoot that will top this "dead model look", as he calls it. His entourage includes his girlfriend, Rose (Miranda Rae Mayo), his long-suffering personal assistant, Chris (Kenny Wormald) and a couple models. They pile in and head for South Dakota.
In Spearfish, world's collide! (Can't you feel that??) Peter and company rent a big cabin in the woods and when they go to the local supermarket to pick up some supplies, they meet Colleen. Peter likes her look and rudely tells the more diplomatic Chris to ask her to the house for a party. Colleen tries to invite her best friend, Jill (Eva Bourne), but can't get a hold of her. Oh, well. Colleen doesn't have anything else going on and this Chris guy is kinda cute ? and a lot nicer than Ben. Meanwhile, we meet some of the other residents of Spearfish. There are these two guys named Tom and Gerry (Luke Baines and Corey Schmitt) and they like to take pictures of women. When they discover a new model they? oh, no you don't. Nice try, but you won't get any spoilers out of me. I guess you'll just have to watch the movie.
"The Girl in the Photographs" is smarter and more fun than a lot of people give it credit for. The premise is original and interesting. The cast could have been better, including the "bad guy" characters who were menacing, but should have been more so. However, Kal Penn stands out with his over-the-top version of the quintessential rude and self-important West Coast artist type. Simon's direction is a bit too loose and short on scares. The script should have kept more of its secrets until later in the story, but the clever and surprising ending mostly makes up for that shortcoming. The movie is well edited and very well shot, owing to the fact that the cinematographer, Dean Cundey, also shot the entire "Back to the Future" trilogy, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (for which he got an Oscar nod) and the original films for two classic Hollywood franchises: "Halloween" and "Jurassic Park". In short, this movie's execution is hit-and-miss, but its basic story is right on target. I'll even go so far as to predict that this one will gain some more fans when it comes out on video. Somewhere, Freddy Krueger, Ghost Face and Wes Craven are all smiling? crooked, wicked smiles, but smiles nonetheless. From me, "The Girl in the Photographs" gets a "B+".