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Last year, I waited to start reviewing horror-themed content until the week before Halloween; this year, many shows are getting a jump on the spookiest season of the year, so we’re getting started with the scary stuff early.
The horror original web series Camera Obscura, produced by MWG Entertainment, was originally shot in 2009, but didn’t end up finding distribution until 2010, when Dailymotion picked it up for an exclusive run. The tale of a young woman who inherits a camera with the power to trap demons is well-produced and full of dark imagination.
With seven episodes out so far, it’s easy to get a complete sense of the story, which sends Clara (Reagan Dale Neis) following in the footsteps of her dead grandfather, a crime scene photographer who first discovered that some of the murders he was documenting were not the work of man, but of normally unseen supernatural creatures.
Oddly, while the early episodes contain a few decent scares, the narrative is much closer in line with a superhero’s journey than a typical horror story: Young woman discovers supernatural power, seeks to better understand it and use it for good. Kinda like Spider-man, except if Guillermo Del Toro designed the supervillains.
Neis is a somewhat subdued yet likable lead, but it’s truly the production values that help this show stand out. The creature effects by Jeffrey S. Farley linger creepily in the back of your mind, the score by Gregory Burkhart is appropriately moody and dark, and cinematography, sound and other technical qualities are excellent.
I’m not saying Obscura is perfect; for one thing, episode four is an unfortunate example of an exposition dump, with Clara’s grandfather (Jack Klugman) rasping through a six-minute explanation of the demons plaguing Los Angeles, how he discovered their existence and how he found a way to control them. If you’re wondering how to explain a show’s premise in a compelling and concise manner, please do not use this episode as a model.
Director Drew Daywalt, with whom I spoke via phone, said that Obscura originated during a meeting with MWG Entertaintment, when he was asked if he had any ideas for female-skewing content. For him, something in the horror genre felt like a good fit for a project with a strong female protagonist.
“[Horror] is fantasy escapism even more for woman then men,” Daywalt said. “Too many horror films even now are just garbage. There’s a lot of stuff out there that doesn’t do women justice.”
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