Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Long-Delayed Polaroid

Old things are always bad in horror movies. By now, photochemical instant photography isn’t just old, it could be considered ghostly technology. It has long been obsolete, yet people keep trying to revive it. A young shutterbug and her classmates would prefer to stick with digital when they find themselves stalked by an evil entity somehow connected to an instant camera in Lars Klevberg’s long-delayed Polaroid, which opens tomorrow in Brooklyn (counter-intuitively following its VOD release).

“Bird” Fitcher is sad and moody, because she still blames herself for her father’s accidental death (and that name she has can’t help much either). One fateful day, Tyler, her torch-carrying co-worker gives her the vintage Polaroid camera he just bought at a yard sale. She takes his picture that afternoon and he is dead by early evening. Of course, the blurry shadow-like figure she thought she saw in the background is to blame.

After his death, the shadow-something moves from Tyler’s picture to an instant snap she took of Avery, the host of post-Halloween party she attended. Avery doesn’t last long either. Inconveniently, the next picture it materializes in happens to be a group shot of Bird and her not-very-close-friends. Initially, it is hard to convince them of their danger, but a few deaths (and the photo’s supernatural properties) will be rather persuasive.

Polaroid bumped from its previously announced release into a long purgatory, because it was caught up in the legal and financial problems swirling around the predatory Weinsteins. They are creeps, but the Norwegian Klevberg had nothing to do with their “alleged” abuses. Admittedly, Polaroid is not a masterpiece, but it deserved better.

Frankly, some of the cause-and-effect dynamics of the story are much cleverer than you would ever expect. The backstory Klevberg and screenwriter Blair Butler (expanding on Klevberg like-titled short film) unspool is also quite creepy. Granted, all the kids are essentially indistinguishable stock characters. However, Mitch Pileggi (a fan favorite from X-Files and Shocker) has some interesting moments as Sheriff Pembroke. Plus, Twin Peaks Grace Zabriskie does her twitchy thing as Lena Sable, a woman who might have some answers.

Admittedly, Polaroid never transcends its B-movie budget or its bland teen ensemble, but it is oddly and unexpectedly fun. It is rather sad it never got a fair chance, but at least Klevberg went on to helm the Child’s Play reboot. Sort of recommended for horror fans in the mood for a little down-market slumming, Polaroid opens this Friday (10/11) in Brooklyn, at the Kent Theater.