Polaroid (2019) poster

Polaroid (2019)


USA. 2019.


Director – Lars Klevberg, Screenplay – Blair Butler, Based on the Short Film Directed by Lars Klevberg, Producers – Chris Bender, Roy Lee & Michael Mahoney, Photography – Pal Ulvik Rokseth, Music – Philip Giffin, Visual Effects – The Bakery (Supervisor – Steve Quinones Colon), Che Revolution Post (Supervisor – Julian De Bianchetti), Engine Room VFX (Supervisor – Dan Schmidt), Eye-Spy Productions & Spiffy LA, Entity Effects – Post Mango, Special Effects Supervisor – John McGillivray, Makeup Effects – Lindala Schminken FX Inc. (Designer – Tony Lindala), Production Design – Ken Rempel. Production Company – Vertigo Entertainment/Good Fear Film.


Kathryn Prescott (Bird Fitcher), Tyler Young (Connor Bell), Samantha Logan (Kasey), Kennan Tracey (Devin), Mitch Pileggi (Sheriff Pembroke), Priscilla Quintana (Mina), Javier Botet (The Entity), Davi Santos (Tyler), Katie Stevens (Avery), Grace Zabriskie (Lena Sable), Madelaine Petsch (Sarah), Shauna MacDonald (Bird’s Mother), Erika Prevost (Linda)


Bird Fitcher is a teenage in high school in Locust Harbor who has a love of photography. Bird’s friend Tyler gives her an old Polaroid camera. After she takes a photo of Tyler, Bird notices a shadow on the picture. She takes a group photo at a party and finds that a shadow appear on that too. Tyler is then killed after which the shadow has vanished from his photo. Bird then notices the shadow moving above the people in the group photo just before each person is killed. She realises that the camera conjures something that kills everybody in the photos it takes.

Polaroid was a feature-length debut for Norwegian director Lars Klevberg. Klevberg had earlier made the 15-minute short film Polaroid (2015). He was given funding to expand the short to a feature film by Roy Lee and his US-based Vertigo Entertainment production company. Lee and Vertigo have been behind the spate of Asian films bought up and remade for English-language release with the likes of Dark Water (2005), The Departed (2006), The Lake House (2006), The Eye (2008), The Uninvited (2009), Oldboy (2013) and Death Note (2017), among other recent original works like It (2017), Barbarian (2022) and Don’t Worry Darling (2022).

The film has the novelty gimmick of a cursed camera. The idea of the camera that can predict the future appears in The Twilight Zone episode A Most Unusual Camera (1960) about a camera that captures events five minutes in the future and the film Time Lapse (2014) about the camera that takes pictures 24 hours into the future. Horror treatment of the idea had previously appeared in The Omen (1976), which has a very similar premise where photos of people who are about to be killed develop smudges. The idea of a camera that predicts people’s deaths had previously appeared in the low-budget Camera Obscura (2017), while Selfie from Hell (2018) offered up a cellphone camera variant. Although the spookiest work about haunted photos still remains the fourth story from tv’s Sapphire & Steel (1979-82).

While we use Polaroid a s a noun to refer to as any form of instant photo, it is actually the name of the company that produced the camera – the camera in use here is Polaroid’s SX-70, which ceased production in 1981.The Polaroid company itself declared bankruptcy in 2001, although others bought out the name and continued on for several years but failed to make any inroads against the prevalence of digital and cellphone cameras. The last instant cameras made under the Polaroid name were produced in 2007. Hence by the time that the Polaroid film is made, it is based around a technology that had been obsolete for over a decade. One of the more amusing things about the film is how it has to keep coming up with excuses for people not to use modern digital or phone cameras when taking photos – Kathryn Prescott keeps justifying it by telling people that a Polaroid photo is unique and something they can hold.

Kathryn Prescott takes a Polaroid selfie in Polaroid (2019)
Kathryn Prescott takes a Polaroid selfie

It is not far into Polaroid before you start getting the vibe of it being a formula teen horror film. The characters are generic and in most cases have no more depth than being given first names. We have seen this sort of film play out along predictable lines before – see the likes of Final Destination (2000) and sequels, Darkness Falls (2003), Slender Man (2018) and Truth or Dare (2018) to Countdown (2019). As with all of these, we get a generic cross-section of teens who set in motion a curse or some form of supernatural retribution and are progressively eliminated in a series of novelty deaths.

Lars Klevberg does create the odd unexpected jump with things popping out of the attic and especially a scene where Kathryn Prescott sets the photo on fire only for the people in it to burst into flames in the middle of the school cafeteria. Mostly though, the film’s scares are tepid and formulaic – there is nothing in the film that pushes the material in a way that keeps you on the edge of the seat.

Lars Klevberg later went on to conduct the universally hated remake of Child’s Play (2019).

Trailer here

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