I can’t say I knew much about Camera Obscura before an email arrived in my inbox, announcing its future release. However, upon reading the email, I began to learn more about it. See, that’s the thing about emails, sometimes you delete them, and sometimes you read them. This one? Oh man, I read the HECK out of it. It offered me a chance to see a new movie, and I’m not one to turn it down! Do you guys like movies? Man, I sure do like watching movies. How am I doing on this review so far, everyone? Make sure you tell me on Twitter what you think of these informative reviews! Anyways, Camera Obscura, the story of a photographer suffering with PTSD being compelled to do terrible things, was pretty good, I guess?
When trying to cope with life after the war, Jack (Christopher Denham) is gifted a camera by his fiancée Claire (Nadja Bobyleva) in hopes that it will help him reconnect with his passion. When Jack gives it his best shot, the photos that the lab gives him are in black-and-white and victims of violent crimes have appeared in otherwise empty shots. Jack begins to put the clues together to help him realize the photos depict actual victims, which are shown with date and time stamps in the photos, which is eerie enough on its own, but is made all the worse when his wife appears as one of the victims. Jack’s fractured psyche compels him to find substitute victims for the crimes, hoping to spare his wife, even if he must take matters into his own hands, sending him on a violent wave of destruction that he hopes will save the only one who matters to him.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it while I was watching it, but something about the film’s narrative felt very familiar. Although I couldn’t find a story with the exact same plot, I was reminded of an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? in which a camera destroys an object in every photo it takes, forcing the characters to figure out how to destroy the object once and for all. Similarly, Camera Obscura had a pretty simple gag/concept that led you down the exact path that you thought it would, making the rest of the film play out predictably. However, like many of the best Twilight Zone or Tales From the Crypt episodes, just because the “game” of the story is predictable, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Much like the main character of Martin, it’s clear that Jack doesn’t take any joy in doing what he’s doing, he just knows it’s something that needs to be done. He’s awkward, he’s uncomfortable, he’s out of his element, which helps sell the psychological element, making audiences question just how disturbed he is or if maybe he is just stuck in a supernatural series of events. Far from the serial killers featured in something like Maniac, Jack is in over his head and makes mistakes due to his lack of passion for causing pain to anyone else. The psychological aspects of the story are a little underdeveloped (which is a photography joke), so if those are the elements that drew you in, you might find the story lacking. Camera Obscura delivers on most of the promises the premise sets up, giving a handful of compelling horror scenes, while audiences hope to find a resolution to the story. I would’ve enjoyed the film more if any of the elements were a little bit stronger, whether it be the cinematography or performances or narrative, but there’s nothing the film really does wrong, so if the concept sounds interesting, you’re sure to enjoy it.
Camera Obscura hits theaters June 9 and VOD June 13.
Wolfman Moon Scale