31 Days of Reviews: The Girl in the Photographs (2015)

Colleen has been receiving horribly graphic images. She knows they’re meant for her to see, but the police can’t do much to help her.

I first saw the trailer for The Girl in the Photographs while on a bit of a YouTube spiral, looking for new films. When I saw that it was available on Netflix for streaming, I added it to my list. Based on the trailer, I really didn’t know much about it. The only thing I really knew was that Kal Penn was in it, and honestly, I didn’t know how to feel about that.

The Girl in the Photographs is directed by Nick Simon and written by Osgood Perkins. The director of photography is Dean Cundey, and the film is executive produced by Wes Craven. This is the final producing credit for Craven prior to his death in 2015.

On the whole, The Girl in the Photographs is an average, maybe even below average horror film. This all depends on who you talk to. One of the biggest things that I learned from this movie isn’t even from the movie itself. I learned that many of the things I like in horror movies are considered tired and overdone. I’ll get more into this later.

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The main conflict in The Girl in the Photographs is that Colleen, played by Claudia Lee, is receiving extremely graphic images of dead bodies. All of these photos are either being posted on the board at her work or even placed on the windshield of her car. Despite this being a recurring incident, the police aren’t willing to do much to help her. They claim that they can’t prove whether a crime was really committed with the photos. The pictures could be fake. There’s no crime if there’s no body. It’s that kind of scenario.

While the small town of Spearfish doesn’t seem very bothered by the photographs, it captures interest online. One of these interested people is Peter Hemmings, played by Kal Penn, a bored photographer from Los Angeles, who sees these grisly photos as the inspiration he needs to rekindle his career. Peter gathers his assistant, girlfriend, and two models to go with him to Spearfish in order to leech off of the “dead model” phenomenon.

The Girl in the Photographs is definitely a slasher. It feels like the creators were going for a sort of post-Scream era vibe. This means that they attempted to incorporate humor, satire, and the final girl trope in a way that was reminiscent of Wes Craven’s work. I’m personally a big fan of when horror movies attempt to include satire. Horror films can do a lot to critique the state of the world we live in that most people typically ignore. I did not know that a significant amount of people found this to be a bad thing.

From reading a lot of other people’s reviews of The Girl in the Photographs, there are many people who found it completely awful, and I can’t really disagree with them. I’m not a big fan of gore, so a lot of the subject matter in this movie was off-putting for me. There are a lot of people who found the satire to be terrible, which I do disagree with because that was one of my favorite aspects of it.

In terms of satire, The Girl in the Photographs looks at photography in general. It looks at the voyeuristic nature of capturing someone’s image in a photograph for others to see. This can be harmless, or it can be antagonistic like it is in this movie. Everyone can take photos now, and with social media, anyone can post anything for the world to see. It was an interesting take on the subject.

Since this is following the trend of other post-Scream slashers, there is also some “hipster dialogue” as some people call it, and there are references to pop culture. I don’t know why this is such a bad thing to some people. I personally found the PC vs. Mac tirade to be ridiculously hilarious.

I did find the kidnapping and murder aspect of The Girl in the Photographs to be really negative though. At one point, the masked killers have a kidnapped woman in a small cage where they attempt to feed her cat food. I rolled my eyes so hard I thought they weren’t going to come back.

As a whole, I thought the masked killers could have been better. They either needed to be completely shrouded in mystery or they needed to be fleshed out completely, and The Girl in the Photographs can’t seem to decide what it wants to do. You start to see a bit of one of the killers, but it only added more questions than it answered. What is their psyche through all of this? It didn’t really make sense. I thought the killers in this movie were probably the most cliche aspect of it all.

I mentioned earlier that Dean Cundey was the director of photography for this movie. You may recognize his name from Halloween and The Thing. He did really great for The Girl in the Photographs. Other than the satire, my favorite aspect was how visually appealing the whole movie was. It was far more polished looking than many other independent features tend to be. The colors really popped. The shots were pretty great. I had no complaints there.

Overall, The Girl in the Photographs is an average to below average horror film. It tries to be original, but it really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s an interesting concept that probably could have been handled better. I personally wouldn’t watch it again, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you’re a fan of slashers, specifically Scream-esque slashers, then you might be inclined to give this one a try.

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