Polaroid (2019) Review!!

Synopsis – High school loner Bird Fitcher has no idea what dark secrets are tied to the mysterious Polaroid vintage camera she stumbles upon, but it doesn’t take long to discover that those who have their picture taken meet a tragic end.

My Take – I remember being intrigued by the trailer of this film when it dropped last year, mainly as it contained a certain reminisce of what made the 2004 Thai horror film, Shutter, and not its 2008 American remake, so enjoyable. But coincidentally, a film about a cursed camera seems to be suffering from a curse of its own.

Produced about two years ago under Dimension Pictures, with a planned summer launch on August 25, 2017, which got later pushed to a December 1st release then November 22nd that is until it unfortunately found itself caught itself in the crossfire as The Weinstein Company crumbled as more and more allegations against Harvey Weinstein came to light. While theatrical marketing materials and posters were already out, by October 2018, the film saw itself pulled off release schedule.

While the film’s director Lars Klevberg, on whose short the film was based upon, moved on to helm the upcoming Child’s Play reboot, about four months ago, reports emerged about Netflix buying the film out (which for reasons unknown didn’t happen). However, in current date, its distributor, Amazon has begun releasing the film internationally, and has also facilitated its arrival online.

Having seen the film now, I believe director Klevberg should be glad how circumstances worked in his favor in picking up a plump project like Child’s Play, because had this film received its original big theatrical launch, it would have found itself sharing space with painful films like Slender Man, The Bye Bye Man and Ouija.

Sure, it isn’t entirely a terrible horror film to pass time with, it just that it ultimately falls under the category of being yet another very predictable teen supernatural horror that brings nothing new or exciting to the table. Despite being based on an acclaimed short film, unlike Light’s Out, it just feel very derivative. A horror film is supposed to excite the audience, not force them into a yawn, right?

The story follows Bird Fitcher (Kathryn Prescott), a introvert high school student who is still grieving due to a recent family tragedy, and spends most of her time after school working in an antique shop, collecting and restoring as much as she can. However, when Tyler (Davi Santos), her co-worker brings her a Polaroid SX-70 camera to work around with, she finds herself getting ecstatic.

With plans to experiment with it, Bird agrees to attend an after school party with her friends Kasey (Samantha Logan), Devin (Keenan Tracey) and Mina (Priscilla Quintana), mainly hoping to capture some pictures of her crush, Connor (Tyler Bell). However, what she doesn’t know is that the camera carries a curse and brings violent death to anyone whose picture it takes. Now having taken loads of pictures at the party, Bird and her friends must try to unravel the camera’s secret before the entity attached to it kills them all.

I think we can guess how remaining of the film goes, a string of deaths, the discovery of the nature of the camera followed by the discovery of how circumstances transpired to result in such an unhappy state of affairs, the development of a plan to bring an end to the evil spirit, and then the implementation of the plan. We also get the usual creeping around dark places, narrow escapes, shocking revelations and nasty secrets.

All leading to a frantic, fast-paced final showdown in an empty High School. We’ve seen cursed cameras before of course, so this isn’t anything groundbreaking, but, the feature version written by Blair Butler (Hell Fest), never tries to move past its PG-13 jump scare film, despite the presence of so many possibilities.

It’s almost as if the studio wanted a horror film, hired a writer, told them to watch The Ring and Final Destination 3 for inspiration, and then write the quickest script they could. Completely predictable, undeveloped characters, mostly off-screen PG-13 deaths with characters walking around in the dark, you’ve seen it all before but done much better.

Sure, the backstory is actually fairly inventive, even if it has some serious holes in it, the twists and the build-ups have little to no impact. The film also fails to build any tension, even though it heavily leans on tried and true formulas, the characters are so two dimensional we never feel the real stakes, despite the CGI entity, who seems heavily inspired by Japanese horror, hot on trial.

Yes, it’s not all terrible. The film is very competently shot and manages to produce a few truly excellent shots of eerie hallways; this despite the overly green color grading. It also has some solid pacing in the final third and comes together with tight enough direction that you feel that with a more original script the director Lars Klevberg might have been able to do something worthwhile.

Even the cast manages to do well, despite the weak material in hand. Kathryn Prescott is likable as the lead, and gets ample support from Tyler Young, Samantha Logan, Keenan Tracey and Priscilla Quintana. Acting veteran Mitch Pileggi is also good in a minor role. Javier Botet also looks great the Entity. In smaller roles, Madelaine Petsch, Katie Stevens, Davi Santos, Emily Power, Erika Prevost, Rhys Bevan John, Grace Zabriskie and Shauna MacDonald are also effective. On the whole, ‘Polaroid’ is a straight forward teen horror flick filled with clichés and cheap scares.

Directed – Lars Klevberg

Starring – Kathryn Prescott, Tyler Young, Samantha Logan

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 88 minutes

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