Final Destination meets Jacob’s Ladder. Camera Obscura – movie review

A war photographer affected by severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) picks up the camera again after more than one year of inactivity due to the terrible things he’s seen and photographed in war zones (presumably Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria).

Jack Zeller (Christopher Denham), the titular character of Camera Obscura, is given an old camera from his fiancé Claire (Nadja Bobyleva), who desperately wants him back on track.

camera Obscura 1.jpgHowever, the photos Jack takes are black-and-white – despite the rolls being coloured – and, mostly, show dead bodies that lay in the locations he shot.

What started off quite premising, with a first half hour that features non-linear storyline and good character development obtained without exposition scenes, soon enough turns into a bloody mess that doesn’t know what’s aiming for.

Although rather original, Camera Obscura tries too hard to resemble the Final Destination movies and Jacob’s Ladder (1990) in its themes and development.

Unfortunately for the director Aaron B. Koontz, the film falls short in its attempts: the campiness of Final Destination is replaced by an unnecessary seriousness, whereas the social commentary on the horrors of war are completely avoided. What a missed opportunity!

The overall movie is quite confusing.

Camera Obscura 3More or less 40 minutes into Camera Obscura, the main character is convinced he has to do something extreme to protect his fiancé from an impending doom. The decision to include this sudden change of tone in the script, makes Jack less compelling (he was rather relatable up to this point) and the plot take a convoluting route involving paranormal elements.

Yet, an initially psychological thriller/horror begins to include supernatural features and a good dose of laughable gore that adds up to the general confusion.

The ending, which I’m not going to give away, is probably the pinnacle of frustration in Camera Obscura, since it doesn’t resolve any question or sub-plot brought up throughout the runtime.

Camera Obscura 2.jpgAgain, the characters are overall formulaic: we have the main character (fairly portrayed by Denham), his screaming and confused fiancé, a police officer who knew everything before the audience, another one who couldn’t figure out the simplest clues and the junkie, silly protagonist’s best friend who is helpful like a toothbrush on a desert island.

Especially Walt, Jack’s best friend, is highly disappointing. He represents my biggest disappointment with the direction: Walt is, in fact, portrayed by Noah Segan, a more than decent actor who proved himself in the past to be able to pull off complex roles.

Seemingly, Koontz has no idea what to do with him, since he randomly throws Segan in many scenes without developing the character’s arc or purpose.

Nevertheless, this is the only mistake made by Koontz. Besides that, his direction is really good for an indie horror. The cinematography is impressive and the editing cleverly resembles a sequence of photos projected on a wall.

Entirely shot on location (in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA), Camera Obscura makes good use of the environment, whilst the bright colours are toned down to make the atmosphere gloomy and sumber.

On a side note, Koontz’s direction avoids silly jump-scares and futile loud music to mark a moment of tension. Instead, the soundtrack is persistently earing and purposely irksome.

Since the direction is, overall, pretty decent, I’d say that the script is what scales down the film. It simply doesn’t make any sense and hides the redeeming qualities of Camera Obscura.

If you ask me, Camera Obscura is not a completely shipwreck, but the script for it is plain awful nonetheless.

Quoting directly from the movie: “this seems one of those weird episodes of Goosebumps!”. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend to watch it, but neither I’d say it’s a complete and utter waste of time. Cheers!

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Eat LocalS – movie review

Sebastian Crockett – a delivery guy with little education – is brought by Vanessa, a middle-age woman, to a remote farmhouse in Essex (England), where he thinks he will make out with her.

Eat LocalS 2Sabastian will soon discover that he’s the main course in a vampire gathering which takes place every 50 years.

The villa he’s brought to is surrounded by soldiers who tracked the vampires and aim to tear them apart.

This is the basic plot to a British horror-comedy filled with good actors and nice locations.

Unfortunately, though, Eat LocalS doesn’t fulfil the premises and resolves into a mixed-bag that could (and should) have been better than how it actually is.

Directed by Jason Flemyng, a quite fair actor at his debut behind the camera, this film is indubitably a comedy more than a horror. And the comedic aspect is definitely the best part of it.

Eat-Locals feature imageComic-wise, Eat LocalS is a good amalgamation between British humour, references to vampire flicks, spoofs and parodies. I honestly chuckled and giggled throughout the majority of the film, with a couple of scenes where I even laughed out loud in my room by myself (look out for the sequence with the “flying chicken”).

The action scenes are pretty cool as well. Dynamically crafted, the fights between soldiers and vampire benefit from a well-directed camera-work and convincing stunts.

Other than that, the movie is a bit of a mess.

Firstly, there are too many subplots thrown in the mix which appear unnecessary and, at times, rather confusing. There are so many things that don’t need to be in the film, namely the psycho-couple that owns the house where the vampire gathering – besides a couple of laughs, their presence is not required in the movie and doesn’t serve any purpose.

Eat LocalS 1Also, there is so much wasted potential in regards to the cast. Eat LocalS has Charlie Cox, Freema Agyeman and Mackenzie Crook – among the others – in it, and doesn’t know what to do with them. Their performance is okay, middle-of-the-road, but the characters they portray are hollow and uninteresting.

Yet, the military side of the story is filled with mannequins that are there just to be killed and carry the plot along.

I understand that their presence in the movie is somewhat necessary – otherwise it will look like a British version of the Australian What We Do In The Shadows (brilliant film, by the way) – but I would have liked to see them developed better and more in-depth.

Again, the lack of a clear – and distinguishable – main character makes it harder to have someone to root for in the film, which depersonalise the story and lowers the level of care within the audience.

To sum it up, Eat LocalS is far from being a bad movie, but at the same time is very difficult for me to recommend it, partly because horror-comedy tastes are very much depending on the singular person; partly because the potential wasted in the film might make it look worse than it, in fact, is.

So, give it a chance if you are not looking for the next chapter of the Cornetto Trilogy. In other words, watch it only if you want to have some basic entertainment but don’t expect anything mind-bowing. Cheers!