There are some movies that just exist. They’re not bad, they’re not good, they’re not even average. They just are. The Girl in the Photographs is, at its heart, one of those movies, one you on the surface should forget as soon as you have watched it. But, and there is a but here! The Girl in the Photographs might not be the most memorable of ninety-five minutes you’ll ever experience, but there is one performance that serves as something more than just a saving grace: I give you Mr. Kal Penn.
Penn—best known for the Harold & Kumar films—isn’t even the star of the movie. Claudia Lee has that dubious honor, and she doesn’t get much more than the baseline horror-thriller material to work with. You know the drill: stalked by a serial killer who leaves photos of his latest victims for her to find, she now has to deal with being the possible next victim. That kind of thing. Not exactly thrillingly deep, but then, something suitable for a lazy Sunday if nothing else.
Where The Girl in the Photographs strikes gold is with Penn’s portrayal of a narcissistic photographer who becomes obsessed with the serial killer’s work. Convinced that he is copying his style, and resentful that the photos are more
edgy than his work, Peter Hemmings (named after David Hemmings from the classic Blow Up, and based on real-life photographer Terry Richardson) brings his crew to the small town where the photos appeared. You can probably guess where it goes from there.
Penn is absolutely great in this film. Every snarky comment, every carefully worded insult, every aloof mannerism hit home. The Girl in the Photographs isn’t a comedy, but Penn’s character works perfectly on a Scream-type level. Each time he appears on the screen, you know something sardonically watchable will happen, and Penn clearly is having a good time with the role.
And that is all that is required, really. The rest of the movie is there to serve up this great, dark humor. It might not happen enough, but it’s always worth the wait.
Watch The Girl in the Photographs for what it is: something easily digestible. There aren’t many scares, but the laughs you get makes it worth the ride and Kal Penn is in my mind a golden god.
This was Wes Craven’s last film—he served as a producer.