Movie Review: ‘Polaroid’

Director: Lars Klevberg

Cast: Kathryn Prescott, Tyler Young, Samantha Logan, Javier Botet, Grace Zabriskie

Plot: An anxious high school student who works in an antique shop comes into possession of a haunted polaroid camera. When people have their photo taken with it, they die shortly after.

Review: This is a movie with a bit of history behind it. The rights for distribution wound up in contention after several delays when world’s biggest and ugliest rapist Harvey Weinstein’s company went bankrupt. After years of muckaround and millions of dollars being put up for the rights, Polaroid found a home in on Netflix. It’s happens to be the horror section on Netflix is where I go when I want some background noise while working, and that’s how it ended up in front of my eyeballs. Much to my regret.

There’s a good basic premise here – a haunted camera causes people to die. The obvious comparison is The Ring, which also featured haunted old media formats killing people. Whilst that movie turned an absurd premise into a horror classic by grounding it in reality, building interesting and believable characters and using an intriguing unfolding mystery to lure us in, Polaroid does nothing right. The characters, the dialogue, the plot…it’s all farfetched and unrealistic.

More than anything else, a horror film has to immerse the viewer in realism, allowing them to suspend their disbelief and invest in the supernatural or normally unrealistic premise they’re selling us. When you have a script that feels like it’s written by a boomer who googled ‘teenage slang’ stiffly delivered by amateur actors it’s impossible to take any part of the story seriously. The main character wears a scarf to cover up a scar, so the other teens at school mercilessly bully her by calling her ‘scarf girl’ (well, they do it once and they keep alluding to it as a major plot point). Teenagers don’t tease a person for wearing a normal piece of clothing.

It goes on like this. At a party a group of teens want to take a photo so a girl poses and yells ‘pics or it didn’t happen!’. I believe the screenwriter happened across this phrase on Facebook on failed to understand that it’s a demand for proof of online claims…not a catchphrase for selfies. Perhaps they’re trying to do something fun with it, but the delivery is so flat it’s hard to tell what the intention was. Later, while discussing the haunted camera, the main character suggests that as developing photos need to be kept away from heat and light. “What does that even mean?” replies her friend, somehow failing to grasp that heat and light need to be kept away from developing photos.

Coming back to The Ring, there’s a simple idea behind the haunted video tape. A girl led a tragic life, was murdered by her adopted mother and the intense anger and evil she felt upon her death found it’s way into the video tape. It’s simple, direct and pretty damn scary. For Polaroid they over-explain the haunting which results in it making less sense than anything could. So some abusive dude gets caught in his murder basement, the police shoot him, he falls backwards into a bathtub while holding a camera, a lamp falls into the bathtub and electrocutes him resulting in his angry spirit being trapped in a camera so he can kill people.

There are complex different rules happening here as well. Once you get your photo taken a shadow may appear in the photo with you indicating the order in which you will die. Then sometimes a spooky ghost will pop up and kill you. Plus if you do stuff to the photo it’ll happen to the person in the photo for some reason. The last one really doesn’t fit into the motif established, but it’s required to defeat the monster at the end.

We have bad actors, crummy redshirt characters to pad out the running time, a nonsense mystery, nonsensical lore and boring horror. Does it have anything going for it? The creature design is pretty good. It’s got a cool ethereal thing going on. Javier Botet is in the role and he’s always a welcome addition.

After all the fuss and money people went through getting this movie to audiences I feel pretty bad ragging on it like this, but it was a dire viewing experience. The directed followed it up with Child’s Play in 2019, and we liked that fine. Polaroid, however, isn’t worth the time.

Rating: ONE out of TEN