The Horror Honeys: Camera Obscura: Indie Review

Camera Obscura: Indie Review

A Head Honey Review by Kat

Camera Obscura (2017)

While horror is a genre that treads the fine line on subjects that are taboo for many other filmmakers, there are still some things that give viewers pause. PTSD is one of those subjects that is cause for much trepidation when it comes to exploration in the cinematic medium, so its rare to find a horror films that deals with the subject matter in this way. However, for better or for worse, in Aaron B. Koontz's Camera Obscura, there is little exploration into the PTSD that Jack Zeller suffers from, and more focus on the relationships and affect the condition has on them.

The story: Jack Zeller is a veteran war photographer with PTSD sees imminent deaths in his developed photos, which makes him question his already fragile sanity and puts the lives of those he loves in danger.

Jack Zeller (Christopher Denham) is having trouble re-adjusting to life in the "real world" after his tour as a war zone photographer, it's been 18 months, and he still doesn't have a job, and the understanding patience of his realtor fiancee, Claire Zeller (Nadja Bobyleva - sidenote: why do they have the same last name if they're not married? She clearly refers to herself as 'fiancee' and 'girlfriend' throughout the film.) is beginning to fray at the edges. His best friend Walt (Noah Segen) is the most annoying person in the world... that happily married jerk who "playfully" hits on every woman he sees, and speaks "jokingly" about picking up hookers. Charming. Isolation is a key factor in PTSD, and while Jack is slowly isolated from his support group, the effect is not as heart-wrenching or powerful as it could have been.

The lack of chemistry between the leads works to create a picture of relationships that aren't so much "on the rocks" but ones that are blindly sailing towards them at top speed. The crash is coming, but these people are so painfully distant and independent from one another that the impending doom of it all is not as compelling as it should be.

A pre-WW2 camera purchased by Claire at an auction as an early anniversary present is both unintentionally callous and very meaningful to the movement of the story, and Jack's progression. Obviously bringing something that triggers Jack's PTSD symptoms is a bad idea to introduce into his life, especially given that he has so much time to obsess about them. but in Claire's mind, this camera is also a way to get her fiancee "back in the saddle" as far as working - by taking photograps of real estate for the company she works for.

The fact that taking black and white photographs of properties on an antique camera is the most ridiculous thing in the entire world is beside the point here, because the results of these photoshoot jaunts are what cause Jack's life to re-ignite the tailspin of his illness.

However, everything happening in Camera Obscura seems to be emphasized in the wrong order. Moments that should be lingered over are snap cut away, and those that should be glossed over are broken down into infuriating minutia as the minutes tick maddeningly by.

Don't touch it.
What Camera Obscura did achieve, was the urge for the viewer to question Jack's reality. Was he dreaming? Was he hallucinating? How much of what he was seeing, hearing and feeling really there? The most effective scene is sadly closest to the end. One of Claire in the bathroom, about to take a bath, when she is pulled into his altered, twisted reality, I was left wishing that more of Jack's experiences were like this one. Immersive and terrifying but ultimately leaving him (and the viewer) questioning what he can truly believe.

The examination of dreams and their symbolism plays a large role in Camera Obscura. Dreams about dead people, whether known to the dreamer or not, are reflective of a terror of the unknown and anxiety about personal illness. Likewise, dreams about losing one's teeth or being injured betray inner turmoil and anxiety caused by a fear of weakness and vulnerability. If these connections are purposeful, they are the subtext that makes Jack's position in reality even more tenuous and are clues to the possibility that his grip on the "here and now" is even more uncertain.

Oh hey, this looks like a cool place to hang out!
Said no one who ever found a serial killer's bunker ever.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all is Camera Obscura's unwillingness to commit to its backstory, and its steadfast refusal to bolster a confusing narrative by attempting to answer the questions that have been raised as the film progresses. Is Jack seeing the future? Is he a vigilante killer trying to protect the woman he loves? Or is he just a copycat for the inexplicable serial killer that popped up for no reason? Or, most painfully of all, is it all just a dream?

Head Honey Verdict: 3 video tapes that should be returned out of 5