Camera Obscura is the newest horror film from Chiller Films. The movie is a a veteran war photographer, dealing with PTSD, trying to pull his life together and move on from the horrors of war he witnessed. In doing so, he takes up a job taking photo of real estate properties with a camera his wife gives him. As you can probably guess, that’s when things start to take a turn for the worse. The film stars Christopher Denham as Jack, Nadja Bobyleva as Claire and Catherine Curtin as Det. Dawson.
Aaron B. Koontz directs this as his first feature length film, and for a first timer, this is pretty good. Koontz wanted to combine several elements from horror instead of picking one genre and driving that into the ground. What we got was a blend of psychological, supernatural and slasher all rolled into one, and it’s mostly seamless. Mostly.
In trying to keep the viewer guessing by switching things up, the movie darts around a lot, while that keeps the pace up, it never lets us process what’s happening. The camera Jack is given is from WWII Germany, a gift as he is a collector of antique cameras. When Jack starts to develop to photos, he notices strange things, things he knows he didn’t shoot, yet, still visible. These changes turn out to predict the future, and that’s where the story takes off.
During the film, I was left wondering why this happening, how does the camera work when Jack is told it shouldn’t, where did Jack find a photo lab to develop film in 2017? All these questions are never answered and I’m not sure why. That could be attributed to the psychological element. Jack has PTSD from the war (I don’t which war, but far enough in the past to have camera shops). Are the images in the images in the photos related to these blackouts he keeps having? What’s real anymore? That aspect of the film is great and I wish Koontz decided to focus on that instead of throwing in other elements, especially when we go to the traditional slasher route. Jump scares are downright annoying and aren’t scary! Several times you see movement in the background and get that musical cue that might as well just be someone singing “HEY! LOOK OVER THERE!”. I was disappointed to see the movie go there as it had the right atmosphere and could have just played out.
From a technical side, Koontz shows he does have an eye. He clearly understands what motivated his characters and put them in settings that felt natural. Christopher Denham is an excellent everyman, and even when he starts feeling the pressure from Det. Dawson, he holds his own. The music even at times was reminiscent of classic 80’s horror, with that pounded synth tone that feels so unnatural. As good as Denham was, Bobyleva was not. Her performance was just bland, even in the emotional parts I didn’t feel her anger or terror, it made it hard to care about her by the end.
Overall, Camera Obscura is a decent horror film that despite not really knowing its identity, offers a good story with interesting ideas and told it a quick manner, even if you’re left puzzled at the end.