Monday, August 10, 2015

#1,820. Snapshot (1979) - Spotlight on Australia

Directed By: Simon Wincer

Starring: Chantal Contouri, Robert Bruning, Sigrid Thornton

Tag line: "It started with a glamour shot ... and ended in murder"

Trivia: Sigrid Thornton was cast two days before shooting started

Like Celia, the 1979 Aussie flick Snapshot was billed as a horror film in the U.S. Only this time, the cash grab was even more egregious. To rake in the moolah, the film’s title was changed to The Day After Halloween, even though it had no connection whatsoever to John Carpenter’s Halloween, released the previous year (Snapshot isn't even set in October; it’s winter in Australia, which Down Under runs from June to August).

Be that as it may, Snapshot does get off to a quick start. Several fire engines are on the scene of what appeared to be a massive blaze. As two firemen prepare to enter the smoke-filled building, a sports car drives up, and Madeline (Chantal Contouri), a famous model, leaps out of the vehicle and rushes towards the fire, shouting the name “Angela”! She’s quickly restrained, and as the firemen make their way to the basement, they find a small flame still burning in the middle of the floor. When they extinguish it, they make a grisly discovery: the charred remains of at least one victim!

Snapshot then jumps back in time to a few weeks earlier, when Madeline convinces her hairdresser Angela (Sigrid Thornton) to leave her nowhere job and try her luck as a fashion model. Apprehensive at first, the promise of a $1,000 pay day (for half a day’s work) is too appealing for Angela turn down.

Angela's first gig, a cologne ad photographed by the eccentric Linsey (Hugh Keays-Byrne), proves a big success, and before she knows it, she's rubbing elbows with some very important people.

Yet not everyone is happy with Angela's new career choice. Her puritanical mother (Julia Bailey), who equates modeling to prostitution, locks her out of the house, forcing Angela to move into Linsey’s studio (which she shares with a few others). What’s more, her ex-boyfriend Daryl (Vincent Gil), who drives a Mr. Whippy Ice Cream van, wants to win her back, and has taken to following her everywhere. So, when it becomes apparent that Angela is being stalked, she assumes it's Daryl creeping around. But is he truly the one pursuing her, or is it someone else?

Forget what its U.S. promoters said: Snapshot is not a horror film. For long stretches, it isn’t even much of a thriller (aside from a few nerve-wracking scenes, like when Angela finds something creepy hiding under her bedcovers, it’s not until the end sequence that the excitement truly kicks in).

For most of its runtime, the intensity takes a back seat to the film’s star, Sigrid Thornton, who perfectly portrays an innocent trying to navigate the sometimes seedy world of high fashion, where lecherous old men make promises to pretty young women they can’t possibly keep. Elmer (Robert Bruning), a friend of Madeline’s, is one such parasite. Having invited Angela over for dinner, he talks of introducing her to movie producers in America, and then tries to coerce the poor girl into stripping so he can snap a few pictures. Sigrid Thornton, in what was her first major film role, is completely convincing as Angela, a girl far too quick to trust others, yet sharp enough to realize when she’s being scammed (she leaves before Elmer takes his photos).

It may be a bit light on thrills, but Miss Thornton ensures that Snapshot remains, at all times, an engaging motion picture.

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