For a film whose premise revolves around its titular tool, Camera Obscura‘s photography is disappointingly dull.
Though it improves at the halfway mark, it does so by discarding its eerie, mysterious build-up, ignoring any exploration of the cursed item’s mythos, and switching gears into an awkwardly comedic slasher.
Ex-war veteran photographer Jack (Christopher Denham) is gifted an antique camera by his girlfriend Claire (Nadja Bobyleva), as a way to help deal with his PTSD. Sceptical at first, Jack takes a few rolls of innocuous photos – only to find that, after developing, they instead detail gruesome deaths of both loved ones and strangers – before they are due to happen.
It’s a intriguing premise. And while the amateur cast’s chemistry is fun to watch, their line delivery and scene set-ups grate. Which is perhaps why early, truncated character-centric scenes are layered with flashbacks, so that more attention is instead given to the bloody payoffs.
But the latter is less effective without the former. I fleetingly enjoyed the novelty of the second half’s tonal shift, but then it becomes a bit of a silly, sanguinous, scramble as our protagonist makes a series of increasingly poor (and out-of-character) decisions. By the end, I’d felt misled by the trailer, which promised a deeper, psychological chiller instead of a confused mash that treats its protagonist’s mental state with shallow cheapness. This might as well have just been a standard stalk ‘n’ slash.