Photography + Horror Movies = One Very Happy Girl
A year ago I heard about a new photography related horror movie called Polaroid that was coming out and I got super excited because my two favourite things were coming together. Only it didn't. I was beginning to think it was never coming out but last night by chance I came across it on the internet and thankfully for me it didn't suck. I am a huge snob where horror movies are concerned, I prefer a decent storyline and script over just gore. Anyone can put together 90 minutes of someone just killing people for no reason. There's no real talent there - and that also defines most of the 80's. Thank Wes (lol as if I'm going to say God..but Wes is) for Freddy Krueger seriously. I'm also that girl who will bitch hard through a movie if something is inaccurate - in my case obviously that's photography. Every movie featuring a dark room fucks it up royally. You can't stand there and watch your photo develop and hang it up straight away or turn the light on unless you want a black piece of paper because that's how you get a black piece of paper. There's a process - developer - stop bath - fixer - wash. For those unsure, developer is the stage where the photo appears. THEN YOU CAN TURN THE LIGHT ON! When I came across Camera Obscura  I got excited about a haunted camera movie. Most of us grew up watching Amityville Horror and all of the awful sequels about haunted items from the house or if you're like me you read the books too, so why not a haunted camera movie? The movie sucked ass all because of one very big technical problem. The movie might have been fine (though rewatching it now it definitely sucks as a movie in general and turned it off) but that ruined it for me. The movie is about a guy suffering PTSD after a 6 month stint in the war and refuses to pick up a camera ever again. His girlfriend is over his shit and wants him to get a job already and buys him an antique camera thats "like 80 years old". To be exact it's a Kine Exakta 1 made in Germany in 1936 which uses 35mm film (previous model used 127 film same as Box Brownies). This was the world's first 35mm SLR camera. The problem here though is he takes it out around town and shoots 10 rolls of film that he takes to get developed. Firstly I don't know a single person who would waste 10 rolls on an antique camera (or any new camera really), generally one roll to make sure it works or to see if it has any quirks like light leaks. Secondly the guy doesn't have a job and he can afford to get 10 rolls of film developed? His girlfriend's going to be super impressed later. Lucky for him a fire breaks out and he only ends up with 4 rolls - which are all black & white and not colour (which reminds me of a conversation I had while working in a camera shop where a woman couldn't grasp why her black and white negatives couldn't print as colour photos), showed dead bodies and were all stamped with the time and date they were taken which isn't even possible because that feature didn't turn up in cameras until the 90's. I mean seriously how can you screw such a huge detail like that? I don't even remember how this film ends, I just remember how much it annoyed me with that small detail. The other movie that left me wondering was Are You Afraid Of The Dark where a young girl is given a polaroid camera which seems to take endless photos. A cartridge only holds 10 frames...
So now that I've told you what NOT to watch, here's three movies you should check out...
There's two versions of this film - the original Thai version made in 2004 and the US remake made in 2008 - watch either of them. The differences between them aren't dramatic enough to worry about unlike films such as The Ring and Let The Right One In where America ruined the one amazing scene that leaves you stunned in your seat or how they completely shat on A Tale Of Two Sisters (The US version is called The Uninvited) they managed to stay fairly faithful to Shutter. The small differences are one version the main characters are boyfriend/girlfriend attending his friends wedding and the US version it's their wedding day and the guy has a different name because everybody in the US is called Ben so they'd relate better to than than Tun (I don't know, just a theory since every US movie has a guy called Ben in it). The main difference in the storylines involve Tun/Ben. In the Thai version he's being haunted by the girls ghost and seeing things whereas in the US version it's mostly Jane trying to convince Ben they're being haunted and Ben being the King of gaslighting. The big reveal has also been slightly changed, not enough to start a riot but it does change your views somewhat on his character.
I've watched the US version the most simply because I like doing multiple things at once (sitting still is beyond me) and I don't have to read the screen that way. The movie centres around a couple who are in a hit and run incident late at night. After the accident the guy who is a professional photographer has persistent neck pain with no explanation other than weight gain according to some scales and every photo taken has some wicked lens flare happening. This also happens with Jane's camera so you know it's not a camera glitch because it's happening on film and digital and later a polaroid camera. The movie focusses on spirit photography (the original film actually features real spirit photos) and eventually Jane discovers the spirit in the photos is someone from Tun/Ben's past while all his friends are dying one by one. Despite the film being 15 years old I won't spoil the ending but if you've ever seen a Japanese/Korean type horror film before you'll have an idea where it's all headed. I have jokingly used an image from the end of the film as my Facebook display photo for my own chronic neck pain. As for spirit photography, I don't know a whole lot about it but I do know people go crazy about "orbs" appearing in their digital photos. Orbs are considered to be balls of spiritual energy. Dust in the air can create orb effects in photos. I don't think it means a whole lot seriously. I've had them a few times in photos and while there's only one been occasion where one photo has nothing and the next has multiple "orbs" I don't really believe in haunted buildings to think it's anything to make a big deal about.
Both versions are on Netflix so definitely watch both!
Ok so I watched this last night and it was decent. Movie starts out like all good horrors do - with some pretty girl (who has no relevance to the rest of the film) dying abruptly for no apparent reason other than that's a great way to start a film, you know, just incase you forgot you put a horror film on five minutes ago. Next thing we have some girl who loves scarves and is given an SX-70 from the guy she works with that he found at a yard sale. A YARD SALE. I have never seen anything that cool at a garage sale or swap meet before. One time I found a Super 8 camera for $30, but that's it. Even opshops price cameras pretty high for what is effectively a shitty point and shoot digital camera that probably won't even work now. Who is going to spend $80 on a chance something works when you can get one brand new for around $100? This is honestly dumb luck in movieland because you can't get any polaroid camera cheap thanks to lomography bringing it all back a few years ago. Polaroid is basically the most expensive hobby you can take up. He lets her know there's a photo still in the camera if she wants to test it and she takes a photo of him. Now what we don't see in this movie is her buying a packet of film for the camera which is the true torture of owning a Polaroid camera. If you have a new camera then no problem but if you have an oldie like this or a Polaroid 600 it's going to take more effort than going to your local shopping centre but somehow she got a packet without any problem after work. Believable. Later that night while she's at a party her co-worker winds up dead and there starts the point of the film - every time a photo of someone is taken they wind up dead. It's like It Follows but with polaroid photos where each new photo passes the spirit on but once they've killed that person it backtracks to the photo before that. So the next person who dies is this obnoxious girl who is butt-hurt she wasn't in a group photo and takes a selfie. Considering each photo is around $4.50 I'm ok with her dying for a stupid selfie. Like that selfie had want to be an award winning masterpiece and not just a duck face staring back at me.
Unlike the spirit photography in Shutter this movie the camera itself is possessed as well as the photos. If you do something to the photos it will happen to the person and that would have been cool to have seen more of in this movie. This is also one of the few short horrors (below) that benefited from a feature length film, many like Lights Out just weren't necessary and it some way killed the scare-factor of the story because they were perfect even if only five minutes long. If horror movies freak you out this one is pretty tame. You don't see kill scenes so it's all off-screen except for one minor part and it's more just about the suspense/mystery of it all.
THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS
"I'll tell you what it is kids. It's that every fucker in the country thinks they're a photographer now, okay? Any everyone can share an image, and it's awful. It's awful, because it makes everything just like watery piss."
This is seriously one of my favourite movies and Peter Hemmings has to be one of the best characters ever created. He cracks me up, he just has some of the best lines but it's probably because I can relate as a photographer with a chip on her shoulder. He just comes out with shit without a care in the world and he's so deadpan you would never know if he was joking or not and admittedly I do that myself (so many people think I hate them for this reason and that's just my personality. I don't help people work it out either. Sarcasm is life.) during shoots but it's with my makeup artist buddy Nicola and she's ok with me talking crap....this is also why I will never film a photoshoot for a "behind the scenes" look or I'd have to cover the whole thing with music to block out what we're saying.
The plot line to this movie is fairly simple: cute girl keeps finding photos of dead people and the police aren't taking it seriously (Fun Fact: the sheriff in this film is played by Mitch Pileggi who is also the sheriff in Polaroid), well-known photographer Peter Hemmings reads about it online and declares he's inspired by "any nut that takes pictures of dead people and posts them online", decides it's a homage to him and goes on a road trip back to his home town where this is all happening with his assistant, girlfriend and a couple of vapid models. They have a party where all the local girls attend wanting a chance to be a model (where the dialog below takes place and I've had this convo in my head during shoots) and by the next night most of the cast is dead.
The other thing that really stands out is a lot of horror films rely on using dark and gloomy rooms a lot to build up tension and for jump scares which are overdone seriously, like that "lets have her open the fridge then when she closes it there's someone standing there.." - cos we haven't seen that a 1000x already - that's like the weak way of making something scary, and there's none of that here. The film is mostly bright and full of colour. No idea if that's on purpose or not but it's a detail that stood out for me. My only issue photographically is early in the movie we have the killer taking photos through a car window with his flash popping, I mean I haven't tried anything like that in a really long time but I can't imagine you'd get much of a photo other than a big flash spot in your photo from the reflection. Could be wrong, I'll give it a go sometime and test it out. You also see the killer printing his photos at home which kinda goes to show how easy it is to be a killer these days. Between 99-02 it was really easy to find messed up stories on the internet and a friend found one about a woman and her boyfriend being arrested after getting photos developed showing them killing her husband. No idea if it was true or not but I had to laugh at the sheer stupidity of these people. Back then digital photography was just really starting to be a thing so unless you had a home darkroom you had to go to the shops to get photos developed. I got my first digital camera as part of a competition in 2000 and it used floppy discs, yes FLOPPY DISCS, so I was still using my 35mm camera and visiting the photo lab regularly until 2007. Now EVERYTHING is digital so you don't need to be a genius in a darkroom and all your photos and nasty little secrets can be stored on your computer where nobody will ever see it! Frightening huh?
Well that's it. If you know of any horror-photography related films let me know!
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