Most of us will agree that Wes Craven’s passing last year was far too soon. We will never have another film to look forward to by him. His final contribution to the medium was as a producer on THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS for director Nick Simon. Wes’s stamp of approval is all over this thing. It’s easy to see where Simon drew his inspiration, Craven being one of them, but he has a distinctive voice of his own. At times it felt modeled after SCREAM but only in a format capacity. It’s a slasher/thriller with a modern twist and much better than I had expected.
There really isn’t much going on in the small town of Spearfish, especially for Colleen (Claudia Lee). She leads a pretty low-key life working full-time in a grocery store. She has recently called things off with her boyfriend Ben (Toby Hemingway) and is ready to move on. She is soon tormented by someone who is leaving her horrifying photographs of what appears to be dead bodies. The police have no reason to believe the pictures to be real, there’s been no evidence to suggest otherwise. When famed photographer and former Spearfish resident Peter Hemmings (Kal Penn) catches wind, he becomes inspired and wants to do a photo shoot in his old town inspired by the creepy pictures. Peter’s assistant Chris (Kenny Wormland) meets Colleen and invites her to a party. Things begin to escalate from there and the bodies begin to pile up. Colleen is at the center of the murders and she will have to do whatever it takes in order to survive.
THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS does just about everything right. It combines an interesting story with characters we get to know and actually care about. We like them (most of them anyways) and don’t want to see them gutted like fish. It’s a slasher film and it’s bound to happen but I was actually invested so when certain characters do die, we feel it. The young cast was quite exceptional and they breathe life into these characters. I did have a bit of an issue with the Peter Hemmings character. At times, it almost felt like the character was too over the top, he felt out of place. Thankfully, Penn is such a good actor he’s able to deliver a couple of human moments that shows a different side to Peter and grounds him.
The look of the film is brilliant and I was excited to see who was behind the lens. The hardcore horror elite will know the name Dean Cundey, his work in the genre is unparalleled. Having worked on films like HALLOWEEN, THE THING, and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, his keen eye lends some class and a few solid scares to the proceedings. Simon has surrounded himself with some mad talent and together they’ve created a slasher/thriller that’s fun and horrifying all at once. Once we get to the final act, the crimson does begin to flow quite frequently and the gore gets to be a bit gnarly. Before the end credits roll we see the words: For Wes. He would be proud of what was accomplished and to know that even after he has left our plain of existence his spirit will live on with those he has inspired.