REVIEW: Camera Obscura (2017)

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2017, Chiller Films/Hood River Entertainment/Paper Street Pictures

Director:
Aaron B. Koontz
Producers:
Aaron B. Koontz
Amir Zbeda
Andrew van den Houten
Writers:
Aaron B. Koontz
Cameron Burns
Cinematography:
Chris Heinrich
Editing:
Zach Passero

Cast:
Christopher Denham (Jake Zeller)
Nadja Bobyleva (Claire)
Catherine Curtin (Detective Dawson)
Chase Williamson (Detective Ford)
Noah Segan (Walt)
Andrew Sensenig (Charlie Hibbert)
Gretchen Lodge (Shannon)
Jeremy King (Tad Buckley)
Dane Rhodes (Camera Store Manager)
Carol Sutton (Dr. Vogel)

A former war photographer’s attempt at returning to his love of shooting pictures takes a whole new twisted turn in the feature film directorial debut of short filmmaker Aaron B. Koontz.

Since his return from shooting photographs of war in the Middle East, Jake Zeller has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He has the same nightmare of following a creepy black insect to a trail of blood to find a boy cradling his dead mother. His fiancée, Claire, hopes to help Jake come back to reality with a job as a photographer for her boss’ reality company. At an auction, Claire buys Jake a vintage camera that is believed to have existed from World War II.

When Jake receives the new camera, he decides to test it out by shooting photographs for his interview for Claire’s boss. When he brings the rolls to the local camera shop, he learns the next day that there was a small fire but none of his rolls were destroyed. However, the photos all come out in black and white. Things start to unravel when Jake learns that the photographs begin to depict imminent deaths, bringing back his PTSD. When he learns that Claire herself is the next victim depicted in the photos, how far will he go to save her?

Independent filmmaker Aaron B. Koontz has done mainly short films, but this marks his first feature film as writer, producer, and director. Along with co-writer Cameron Burns, Koontz comes up with quite an interesting tale of a man whose already fragile state is really tested after receiving a vintage camera from his fiancée. However, what makes this extremely interesting is the major plot twist that comes just over halfway through the film and it smoothly transitions from one subgenre to another subgenre. The end result is quite a fascinating look at how far one man will go to save his loved one.

Christopher Denham brings out a great performance as the very conflicted Jake, who is first introduced at a therapy session explaining the constant nightmare he has suffered as a result of the war. It is clear that Claire, played by Nadja Bobyleva, is Jake’s only safe asset into reality. Their relationship is truly wonderful and she knows his passion for photography, which is why she is the one who buys him the camera that changes everything. The chemistry between these two is quite great and helps drive the film further.

Catherine Curtin also helps the film as a hard-nosed detective who has suspicions revolving Jake as he tries to figure out how he can stop Claire from becoming a victim with Chase Williamson as her more level-headed partner. However, it is the intricate plot twist that comes to mind that brings a sense of shock to the film and brings the detective’s suspicions. The twists (yes, there are more than one) to the plot helps make this a more interesting film as we Jake attempts to save Claire by any means necessary.

Camera Obscura is quite a feature film debut from Aaron B. Koontz. It may swerve midway but it is done smoothly with its intricate plot twists and shock of both a midway point and ending.

WFG RATING: B+

Chiller Films will be releasing the film to select theaters on June 9. Check your local theaters for showtimes.

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