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The makers of the grim, film-school-sloppy horror-thriller The Girl in the Photographs never flesh out their provocative thesis: that photography is a predatory act that allows photographers to control their subjects.
Neophyte director Nick Simon and his two co-writers juxtapose egotistical fashion photographer Peter (Kal Penn) with a pair of small-town serial killers who document/fetishize their crimes through photo souvenirs. But Peter doesn’t have much in common with androgynous murderer Tom (Luke Baines) and his hulking, silent partner Gerry (Corey Schmitt) beyond mutual love of juvenile insults like “the [Nicorette] gum tastes like garlic semen,” hatred of women and jocks, and fascination with camera-shy subject/victim Colleen (Claudia Lee).
Colleen, the girl of the title, may be similarly sketch-thin, but her deliberate lack of definition is the film’s most compelling aspect. She quits her job as a supermarket cashier and sheepishly admits to her boss that she doesn’t know what she’ll do after she moves out of town — since she doesn’t yet know who she wants to be, she could be anyone. Then again, while following so enigmatic a heroine may sound intriguing, it’s Peter who dominates this unfocused but basically predictable slasher narrative.
He drinks, bellows, and pouts through every interaction, usually getting his way in the end — even when he inexplicably convinces his mercurial girlfriend, Rose (Miranda Rae Mayo), to forget about his open flirtations with Colleen and jump his bones anyway. Peter’s aggressive personality may be effectively alienating, but never in a rewarding way.
The Girl in the Photographs
Directed by Nick Simon
Opens April 1, Cinema Village