‘The Girl in the Photographs’ Is Hackneyed Horror

The Girl in the Photographs.
The Girl in the Photographs. Screenshot

A girl leaves a movie theater late at night, foolishly enters a deserted parking lot to retrieve her car and heads home to study, unaware of the red truck that starts its motor and follows her. Inside her house, a bloated half-naked cretin waits with a poised knife as the other freak emerges from the red pickup and joins him in the shadows. Unspeakable mayhem follows and The Girl in the Photographs begins.

(1/4 stars)

Written by: Robert Morast, Osgood Perkins and Nick Simon
Directed by:
Christy Carlson Romano, Katharine Isabelle and Claudia Lee
Running time: 93 min.

O.K., so now it’s not just one, but a pair of serial killers on the loose with a photography fetish, terrorizing the sleepy hick town of Spearfish, S.D., by torturing and mutilating pretty girls and then sending savage close-ups of their bloody, brutalized victims to the killers’ innocent muse—a supermarket checkout girl named Colleen. The murder rampage offers temporary relief from a boring job that is going nowhere, but the bored police are too unconcerned to do anything. Everybody in Spearfish is bored, but when the story hits the Internet, it rouses the attention of a famous, freaked-out fruitcake photographer in Hollywood named Hemmings (it’s a movie obsessed with misplaced hipster knowledge of movie lore and celebrity name dropping, so it shouldn’t take you long to get the tongue-in-cheek connection between Hemmings the zoned-out camera freak and the shutterbug played by David Hemmings in Blow-Up).

Desperate to revive his dwindling career by cashing in on the serial killers’ newfound fame, Hemmings and his entourage head from L.A. to Spearfish, which—wouldn’t you know—also happens to be his hometown. Hemmings and his freak invasion offers Colleen the checkout girl an escape to Hollywood to recreate the carnage in the photos. The real killers have other plans. One by one, models, assistants and hangers-on in Hemmings’ deluded group are kidnapped, locked in cages and fed one can of cat food each before they are disemboweled. It all leads to an all-night orgy the night before Colleen is scheduled to leave town, when the maniacs plan their masterpiece of mass destruction. Throats are slashed, guts are spilled, blood spurts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Girl in the Photographs is the last film produced (but not directed) by recently deceased Wes Craven, the legendary director of such genre classics as The Hills Have Eyes, Scream and the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He was known for his innovative ideas on horror. The director of cinematography is Dean Cundey, the cult cameraman who shot Halloween and The Thing. With impressive credentials like these, you have a right to expect something less amateurish than what emerges here. Unfortunately, the director is Nick Simon, a South Dakota native himself, who demonstrates no freshness of technique, only a remarkable talent for assembling the worst group of actors I have seen in years.

But the thing to notice is that the screenplay is by Osgood Perkins, the son of Anthony Perkins, who must have watched his father as Norman Bates endlessly (he even played a role in Psycho II). Putting what he absorbed on film, the result has several “gotcha!” thrills, and he knows the value of a well-placed scream. Alas, he also writes dialogue like “It’s a very fine line that separates me from our sick-fuck friend. He probably has a PC. Maybe I’m the PC in this relationship. Maybe this guy is a Mac…Nobody makes me feel like a fucking Dell computer and gets away with it.”

Rest assured, Anthony Perkins would have demanded a re-write. ‘The Girl in the Photographs’ Is Hackneyed Horror