Pau Freixas' Cámara oscura is a no-muss, no-fuss open-seas thriller about a group of divers who, following the discovery of a floating corpse and the accidental destruction of their tiny boat, end up on as stowaways on a vessel populated by five ornery pirates. And by "ornery" I mean "sleazy, slimy, and willing to commit murder."
Basically a boat-bound rendition of your standard cat & mouse thriller, Cámara oscura (Deadly Cargo) is hardly the flashiest or most startlingly unique import chiller out there, but there's more than enough here to warrant a visit from the horror fans who aren't afraid of the subtitles.
Despite his stable of familiar characters and "why didn't they just...?" plot-holes, Mr. Freixas keeps the plot churning forward with few slow spots, amping up the tension quite admirably at key moments, and doling out a few nasty surprises prior to the (admittedly rather predictable) finalé.
The stalkees are a generally generic lot with the exception of Spanish star Silke Klein as an intrepid journalist who just stumbled into one horrifying scoop. On the villainous side of the spectrum, Freixas brings together a suitably unseemly collection of thugs, weirdos, and troublemakers. It's not exactly a waterlogged Spanish take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, despite what my plot synopses sound like, but Cámara oscura is a fairly effective chase-thriller all the same.
Video: Anamorphic widescreen with a healthy (but not overly intrusive) layer of grain across the darker sections.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish with optional subtitles in English or Spanish. The budget and location of the piece dictate that the audio quality will be "naturalistic," but audio quality is rather solid throughout.
Well-shot and crisply edited, Cámara oscura overcomes a pedestrian screenplay and manages to work just well enough for a 90-minute investment. There's very little here that the genre fans haven't seen before, but the flick still stands as a familiar story, re-told with some color and style.