×

Film Review: ‘The Girl in the Photographs’

An unsavory mix of bloody mayhem and genre tweaking that likely will garner mostly negative responses.

With:
Kal Penn, Claudia Lee, Kenny Wormald, Toby Hemingway, Luke Baines, Corey Schmitt, Mitch Pileggi.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3826866/

“The Girl in the Photographs” is a slasher movie filled with smug and self-absorbed characters who are not nearly as clever as they obviously assume they are. Unfortunately, this unsavory mix of gruesomely bloody mayhem and genre convention tweaking could easily pass as something produced by the most insufferable of these twits, a hipster L.A. photographer who delights in shooting transgressive scenes of fake violence. When psychos in his flyover-country hometown start to imitate his ghoulish handiwork, the supercilious shutterbug is driven to investigate by equal measures curiosity and professional jealousy. Trouble is, this initially promising premise quickly devolves into an excuse for standard-issue bloodletting, and the film emerges as something best left to undiscriminating VOD streamers and niche festival attendees.

The plot is triggered by unfortunate events that beset Colleen (Claudia Lee), a restless young woman who becomes even more restless, and ever more terrified, when somebody starts to leave grisly “presents” for her at the small-town South Dakota grocery store where she works: detailed photographs of what appear to be recent victims of savage violence. The local sheriff — who, even by genre standards, is astounding obtuse, if not willfully stupid — is slow to respond, dismissing the photos as sick-humored fakery. But when the photos go viral, they attract the serious attention of Peter Hemmings (Kal Penn), who can’t help noticing the similarity between the ghastly images and his own trademark output.

So Hemmings travels to the South Dakota hamlet — which just happens to be his birthplace — with an entourage of similarly self-centered models (including his girlfriend) and his harried assistant. Colleen pretends to be unimpressed by the snarky celebrity, but accepts an invitation to the secluded rental house where Hemmings and his crew plan to party hearty and shoot photos. Naturally, the aforementioned psychos crash the party and, just as naturally, they make bloody nuisances of themselves.

Director Nick Simon, who cobbled together the script with co-writers Osgood Perkins and Robert Morast, doesn’t generate much in the way of suspense — a failing only partly attributable to fact that most of the murder victims are unpleasant caricatures whose deaths evoke snickers, not shock.

Penn gets a few good laughs as he hard-sells Hemmings’ overbearing egocentricity, often sounding like he’s channeling Jeff Goldblum as he warp-speeds through dialogue while exuding the condescending attitude of a man absolutely certain he is the smartest fellow in the zip code. (He also delivers some incongruously angry zingers at the expense of AT&T, Dell Computers and other brand names.) But the other performances range from undistinguished to barely adequate — although Mitch Pileggi deserves some props for delivering his lines with a straight face as the clueless sheriff — and the production values (even the lensing by the normally reliable Dean Cundey) are nondescript.

If you pay close attention, by the way, you’ll note that the psychos are named Tom and Jerry, which pretty much illustrates the level of humor in “The Girl in the Photographs.” Unfortunately, the film appears to be the final screen credit of the late horror master Wes Craven (“Scream,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street”), who is listed as executive producer, and to whom the film is dedicated during the closing credits. That’s a nice gesture but, really, he deserved better.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'The Girl in the Photographs'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 16, 2015. Running time: 95 MIN.

Production: An AGE-Al-Ghanim Entertainment production. Produced by Thomas Mahoney, Andrea Chung. Executive producers, Wes Craven, Nawaf Alghanim.

Crew: Directed by Nick Simon. Screenplay, Osgood Perkins, Robert Morast, Simon. Camera (color), Dean Cundey; editor, Michael Griffin; music, Nima Fakhrara; production designer, Eric Fraser; costume designer, Autumn Steed; sound, Kirby Jinnah; casting, Nancy Nayor; assistant director, Jody Ryan.

With: Kal Penn, Claudia Lee, Kenny Wormald, Toby Hemingway, Luke Baines, Corey Schmitt, Mitch Pileggi.

More Film

  • Empty movie theater

    Theater Owners Create $2.4 Million Fund for Cinema Workers

    The National Association of Theatre Owners and the Pioneers Assistance Fund have created an initial $2.4 million fund to provide financial assistance to movie theater employees who need help due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organizations said Monday that the first part of the initiative is a grant program that will provide a stipend to [...]

  • Bob Chapek Bob Iger Disney

    Bob Iger to Give Up Salary, Other Senior Disney Executives to Take Pay Cuts

    Disney has joined the list of companies implementing sizable pay cuts for senior executives amid the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis. Bob Iger, who shifted from chairman-CEO to executive chairman last month, has opted to forgo his salary for the year. Bob Chapek, who succeeded Iger as CEO, has taken a 50% pay cut. [...]

  • Sundance Horror Movie 'Relic' Picked Up

    Sundance Horror Movie 'Relic,' Starring Emily Mortimer, Picked Up By Film Constellation

    London-based production, finance and sales company Film Constellation has boarded the critically-lauded “Relic,” the debut feature from Natalie Erika James. The film, which stars Emily Mortimer (“Shutter Island”), Robyn Nevin (“The Matrix Trilogy”) and Bella Heathcote (“The Neon Demon”), had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the Midnight section. The film, which [...]

  • Judy Movie 2019 renee zellweger

    Korea Box Office: ‘Judy’ Debuts on Top as Cinemas Slump to Historic Lows

    The South Korean box office, which has been widely affected by coronavirus and has fallen to historic lows, was further hit by leading exhibitor CJ-CGV’s recent decision to shut 35 complexes nationwide, and to reduce screenings at those theaters remaining in operation. Opening on Wednesday (Mar. 25), Oscar-winning drama “Judy” debuted on top of the [...]

  • 'Elephant' Review: Less Majestic Than the

    'Elephant,' Narrated by Meghan Markle: Film Review

    Of all the members of the animal kingdom we think of as akin to humans — chimps, dolphins, whales, perhaps (if we’re being honest about it) our dogs — elephants may be the most movingly and preternaturally aware. Because you can see how intelligent they are. You see it in a chimp’s face, too, of [...]

  • Ken Shimura

    Japanese Comedian Ken Shimura Dies of Coronavirus at 70

    Ken Shimura, a comedian who was a fixture on Japanese television for decades, died on Sunday evening from the coronavirus, the Japanese media reported Monday. He was 70, and immediately before his illness had been set for his first starring role in a feature film. Shimura entered a Tokyo hospital on March 20 with fever [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content