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The Girl in the Photographs. 2015. Directed by Nick Simon. Screenplay by Robert Morast, Osgood Perkins, & Simon.
Starring Christy Carlson Romano, Katharine Isabelle, Claudia Lee, Kal Penn, Mitch Pileggi, Kenny Wormald, Eva Bourne, Toby Hemingway, Miranda Rae Mayo, Toby Levins, Autumn Kendrick, Luke Baines, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Oliver Seitz, & Corey Schmitt. Alghanim Entertainment.
Not Rated. 95 minutes.
This movie is being touted as something special, simply because it was the last film Wes Craven produced before his passing. But outside of that there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. Even though The Girl in the Photographs has a dark, sleek look with some nice cinematography from the legendary Dean Cundey, along with exceptional music from Nima Fakhrara, ultimately there isn’t anything except style here. The writing is very dull, from a story by director Nick Simon, written by Osgood Perkins (son of Anthony) and first time writer Robert Morast. I enjoy the premise, however, outside of that the screenplay’s really a boring rehash of typical genre fare, which eventually leads us to a disappointing finish.
All the grim beauty in the world can’t save this one. Too bad, as it would’ve been nice to have a final film produced by Craven worth talking about. Instead, his name is attached to this less than mediocre attempt at making something different within the slasher sub-genre of horror. The ending is a nice touch. Just too little too late.
When Colleen (Claudia Lee) starts to receive pictures of savage murder scenes, young women brutally killed. Are they real? Are they elaborately staged scenes?
Either way hipster photographer Peter Hemmings (Kal Penn) is interested. He wants to start staging photographs, much like this fellow artist or possible serial killer. Except by doing so he might just have put himself, and everyone around them, right in the way of the one taking those pictures.
And there’s nothing stopping the murders from slowing down.
So immediately, the fact Dean Cundey is the cinematographer on this movie really attracted me. Because you’ve got a guy who’s done everything from classics such as John Carpenter’s Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, The Thing, and then there’s his work on lesser, underrated pictures like The Witch Who Came From the Sea, Without Warning, Halloween II & Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Psycho II, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, plus a ton of others like Jurassic Park and Apollo 13, and more. So naturally, if you know his work, you’ll know Cundey has a lot of talent. His eye for horror particularly is incredible. There are some beautiful bits of Steadicam in here, tracking shots that make scenes stand out from the rest of the film. One of the biggest reasons I liked anything about The Girl in the Photographs is due to Cundey and the look he brings to the picture. Everything is beautifully captured, yet even the enormous talent of a cinematographer such as Cundey cannot fully carry a movie into worthy territory.
In addition to the film’s look, its overall atmosphere is definitely aided by an eerie score from Nima Fakhrara. There were scenes where it actually surprised me, catching me completely off guard, and it weighs down the scene with a real ominous, foreboding air. There was a typical feeling at times that takes you back to the usual style of horror score, but still Fakhrara subverts the horror movie score and gives us an enjoyable bunch of music to go along with Cundey’s slick look.
Kal Penn is great as Kumar, fairly shit in all other regards, though. He tries, but there’s something about his acting that falls flat. Especially here. The writing isn’t that great to begin with, and then there’s his dialogue. Which, coming from someone else, maybe could’ve been a little better. Penn is meant to be a pretentious-type, a douchebag. Although what comes out is just a dreary and forced performance from him that reeks of trying too hard, giving too little. Outside of him there wasn’t much else in the way of acting that’s bad. Not much good, either.
The screenplay kills everything simply because even the visuals aren’t enough to float the boat. Cundey is awesome, he’s not that awesome. Without anything new or innovative, the visuals are merely nice to look at. So on top of that there’s nothing interesting in the screenplay to lift things any further. What begins as an interesting premise, and ends in a fairly intriguing manner, falls apart in the middle like something only cooked around the edges and not inside. There’s nothing exciting at all about the dialogue, the characters are all flat, one-dimensional people we’re only waiting to watch die. So in many respects it’s the completely typical slasher horror, except it’s nowhere near as good as any of the classics, nor is it anywhere near the other horror movies Cundey’s touched in his career.
I can give this a 2-star rating with a clean conscience. There are a couple eerie scenes, and the masks worn were unsettling. So it’s enough to watch this once, just to say you’ve honoured Craven’s dear memory. After that you’ll likely never put this on again, unless you’re masochistic and want to endure it another time over. It’s not worth it, though. Again, I do dig the ending, and the photograph in the finale is almost otherworldly, it’s scary. But a decent premise and a fun ending does not a solid horror movie make.
A Nightmare on Elm Street. 1984. Directed & Written by Wes Craven.
Starring John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Johnny Depp, Charles Fleischer, Joseph Whipp, Robert Englund, Joe Unger, & Lin Shaye. New Line Cinema/Media Home Entertainment/Smart Egg Pictures/The Elm Street Venture.
Rated R. 91 minutes.
All those who love horror, truly, are bound to miss Wes Craven. He’s firmly planted amongst the masters of the modern horror genre. His film The Last House on the Left completely rocked and shocked viewers, though, even behind that brutal picture are bigger things than merely a rape-revenge horror. Some people pass over a later effort of his, The People Under the Stairs, yet that attacks everything from racism to Regan.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a different story. Craven completely hit the mark in every way imaginable, both on a subtle level and the more obvious ones. Freddy Krueger became synonymous with nightmares, the bad dreams which shake you from your sleep. Little kids weren’t afraid of a faceless boogeyman anymore after 1984 – from then on, it was Freddy. Because he was different than the other popular slashers, being a totally mind-based killer; he comes for you through dreams, and that means rules change. The unconscious is our most vulnerable place. He gets there, invading the private spaces of our inner mind. It’s a delicate subject when you boil this slasher-horror down to its basic parts. Craven does his best job crafting a masterpiece of horrific dreams on the back of Freddy, along with the appropriately impressive and inventive effects to boot. This is a classic of horror if there ever were one.
We all know the plot. Let’s skip that part this time around.
Part of my love for this movie is the innovation of Craven and his team. Everything from the blood bed to the simplest practical effects. Such care goes into the movie to make it look so excellent.
Love the effect of Freddy pushing through the wall, then Nancy wakes up with the cross knocked off on her, and the wall’s back to normal. Always thought it was creepy, subtle. Then not long afterwards Freddy comes down the alley with those long arms, so surreal and dreamlike. Everything is warped and weird. And it is terrifying. Plus, once we finally get the few looks at his face, all scarred and burned up, it’s hideous.
Freddy’s the pure mercury liquid of nightmares. At first he doesn’t even respond to Nancy when she asks “who are you?”, but simply cuts his chest open to reveal ooze and maggots.
And that’s the most terrifying part about Freddy. He’s a dream, a nightmare figure. He gets you if you fall asleep, which time and time again tests the characters of the film. There’s an unfathomable aspect to Krueger and his entrance through the unconscious mind. Almost as if your fears will literally eat you alive when he’s around. Plus, there’s also the angle of the buried secrets in a tight-knit community. Once the truth of Krueger, who he was and what happened to him comes out, then we start to see what the past does to the present. It invades and infects the next generation. You could make a case that Craven is talking about generational trauma, in a sense. Either way, the fact Freddy worms his way into the minds of the young people on Elm Street is a creepy sort folktale, a modern era Pied Piper leading the kids to their deaths. Sort of the death of youth, bringing adolescence to an end in horrific ways. Freddy is ultra creepy, as he’s already a child murderer, but the injustice portion of things comes into play; questions of morality, and what exactly is justice, so on. You can dive deep into Craven, I’ve been saying that for ages.
Apart from being the big screen debut of Johnny Depp, there are a couple good performances. Heather Langenkamp as Nancy is a perfect choice. She’s likeable, as well as sweet. Yet she’s strong and independent, she wants to track Freddy down, no matter how she has to go about it; whether by force, or by dream. As opposed to the typical “Final Girl”, Nancy is much more than just that. She’s an antagonistic protagonist, if I can mix and match. I say that because she’s able to turn the tables on Freddy and get the upperhand by going at him on his own turf. So, Nancy comes off as a decently strong, resilient female character in a genre with a dearth of those types of characters.
Of course we can’t talk about this Craven masterpiece without mentioning the talent of Robert Englund. Nobody else can ever fill his shoes. Sure, you can remake it. And Jackie Earle Haley is actually a great actor. But certain roles are not meant to be played over and over like in the theatre. In stage acting, nobody is recording you (or at least they never were before these days), and so the performances are not cemented; many people can grace the role. Someone like Freddy Krueger can never be anyone else but Englund. He put the stamp on that role, giving it the performance of a lifetime. His character remains ever creepy, both slightly perverted and terrifyingly mad. The makeup effects involved with him, just his appearance alone, are insane. They remain with you, after years and years. You could be on a desert island for a decade and still remember who Freddy was if they showed you a picture. It’s an iconic piece of horror, of cinematic history itself.
Craven’s Nightmare is a 5-star horror. It defined what a supernatural horror could be without the need for the same old ghosts and spooky things in the dark. Freddy branded himself onto the brain of genre fans forever. Not only that, he marked the world. He’s a phenomenon, still is really. Even kids knew who he was back in the ’80s when they couldn’t see the movies. They just knew. I knew who Freddy was before I’d actually seen the movie myself. So Craven not only gave people a good scare, he contributed to pop culture in a hugely significant way during the ’80s, and then later in the ’90s with Scream. This one always creeps me out, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Never a boring watch, always good for that solid, enjoyable scare I crave.