Camera Obscura – You should look away but you just can’t [Review]

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Camera Obscura hit theaters on June 9th and Digital HD June 13th…and I have to tell you, it is a terrifying movie.

Not because there’s an indestructible serial killer in a hockey mask butchering college students, there isn’t one.  Not because CGI dinosaurs or monsters are devouring everyone in sight, there isn’t any of that either. Not because of cheap jump scares, there aren’t any of those.  Not because the director splashed the body weight of the cast and crew in fake blood all over the screen, while there is some gore to be had it is applied with a studied hand and always furthers the story.

The movie is terrifying because the director Aaron B. Koontz (who also shares a writing credit on the script with Cameron Burns) makes dirty little voyeurs out of the audience who have an intimate front row seat to the slow inevitable crumbling of a good man’s sanity and to his descent into madness, violence, and evil.  It is like watching a train wreck, you know you should look away but you just can’t.  Camera Obscura is a rare thing in this age of sequels, reboots, remakes and prepackaged franchise movies, it is a shining example of small independent film making and the power it can have.  This movie is truly an uniquely unsettling work of genius in all its details large and small.

The main character Jack Zeller is war photographer who has come back from Afghanistan with PTSD and a not especially firm grip on reality. He came back from the war vowing never to pick up a camera again. His well-meaning fiance gives him an antique camera she bought for him at an auction which starts a bloody chain of events leading to a tragic and intriguing ending.  The actor who plays Jack, Christopher Denham, is absolutely incandescent in the role giving an incredibly powerful and nuanced performance.  If the Oscar truly rewarded excellence in a film he would be walking away with a gold statue as would just about everybody involved in this project.

[RELATED: The Camera Obscura trailer…don’t believe everything you see.]

Have to give a special mention to something I rarely pay all that much attention to while watching a movie, the score.  The music for Camera Obscura is almost like another actor contributing to telling the story and creating as well as notching up the tension of the narrative.  I don’t remember the last time the score affected me quite like this one did, it truly added an important element to the over all disturbing feel of the movie.

I am at a loss for words in describing this gem of a film, think Memento, Blue Velvet and elements of Final Destination mashed together with a dash of the stuff nightmares are made of thrown in for good measure.  It is as good a description as any but fails to do this film any kind of justice.  I can’t wait to see it in a theater full of people on the big screen…as I watch this brilliant movie again I will have the added entertainment of watching people in the audience squirm uneasily as the plot unfolds telling its unflinchingly brutal story. 

I give Camera Obscura 5 full Bananas because that is as high as our scale goes. It deserves more.

See if Camera Obscura tickets are on sale near you at Fandango!

C.S. Anderson

This article comes to SFM from C.S. Anderson, co-founder of Alucard Press and author of The Black Irish Chronicles and many more fine novels. -To discover more information about Mr. Anderson and his works visit