Review: 'Camera Obscura'


When Clara’s detective grandfather dies, she is left to handle his affairs.  While cleaning out his belongings, she comes across some strange items, namely a journal filled with strange symbols, dead languages, and demonic photos.  She also finds an antique camera, most of the mechanics of which have been replaced by carvings and other voodoo bits.  She burns the journal, and mulls  over the camera.  That night, Clara is visited by a terrifying zombie woman who is felled by a smack with the camera.

Luckily, Grandpa left a video explaining what is going on.  There is a sextet of demons killing their way through Los Angeles.  Gramps died trying to capture the sixth.  The other five were locked away in the journal that Clara conveniently burned.  With their images no longer trapped within the journal, Clara must start over to save the city - and herself.

The 20-part web series, Camera Obscura, is more than half over.  I have seen a lot of bad web series, and, fortunately, this is not one of them.  It's quite good in fact.  The storyline is vaguely flawed (why would Clara choose that one journal to burn, over a whole house full of weird occult stuff?) but the writing is natural and the acting is solid.  Director Drew Daywalt does an excellent job of keeping the frames atmospheric without being blindingly dark. By far, my favorite parts have been the demons, which look something like a cross between a J-horror ghost, a zombie, and a Cenobite.  In other words, they are creepy.  They move with a weird halting motion that's similar to the demon movements in things like The Grudge, but, with a shoestring budget, Camera Obscura has to ask the actors to make the movements within their own bodies.  The look is surprisingly effective.

The audio levels needed some work.  Overall, it sounded like the audio was recorded in-camera, with that tinny, echo-y quality.  Clara spoke far softer than her male co-stars, and was on occasion very difficult to hear.  The show also could have used a finer cut.  There was a frustrating amount of drawn-out scenes, and the lengthy minutes of Clara thinking that made me fidgety. 

Unfortunately for Daywalt, the most frustrating problem with the series is not his fault.  Camera Obscura is playing on, but the site can’t handle the videos very well.  A six-minute clip took ten minutes to buffer.  And the advertising attached to the video was offensively disruptive.  I can handle the one or two videos at the beginning, but the pop-ups that take over half the viewing window are uncalled for.  Even worse is that at the five-minute mark, no matter what, your video stops and a fifteen-second advert plays.  This is especially frustrating when it comes at the end of a clip that is 5:35 long.

Camera Obscura is playing exclusively on  The site does not say explicitly, but I would think that the series concludes on Halloween.