Review:  ‘Girl in the Photographs’ fails to develop beyond a minor horror film

There’s an intriguing premise set up at the beginning of Nick Simon’s horror film “The Girl in the Photographs.” Young supermarket clerk Colleen (Claudia Lee) is tormented by grisly snapshots left for her discovery by a serial killer in sleepy Spearfish, S.D.

She matches the composition from one of the bloody photos of a young female victim to a provocative ad for “American Clothing,” and therein lies the film’s proposition — a comparison between the objectification of fashion photography to the brutal and bloody crimes of a small-town murderer.

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However, this argument isn’t developed beyond the mere juxtaposition, even when “American Clothing” photographer and Spearfish native Peter Hemmings (Kal Penn, doing his best impression of celeb photog Terry Richardson) arrives in town with his entourage in tow. “The Girl in the Photographs” shoots for the level of Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom” in its meta-commentary and insight but achieves only that of a low-budget rip-off of “Scream” (the late Wes Craven is an executive producer here).

There isn’t enough mystery and ambiguity around the murders to create a sense of fear or dread, yet there’s something rather effectively creepy and compelling, with its retro thrills and chills. Unfortunately, the spunky Colleen is denied the chance to be the classic, empowered “final girl.” This results in a nasty and nihilistic perspective that feels misplaced. Still, the performances, especially by Penn, are entertaining enough to sustain this minor horror flick.


“The Girl in the Photographs”

No rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Playing: Vintage Loz Feliz 3.