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CAM (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 5, 2020


CAM (2018)

Starring Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters, Devin Druid, Imani Hakim, Michael Dempsey, Flora Diaz, Samantha Robinson, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Quei Tann, Linda Griffin, Clint Jung, Carl Donelson, Brayden Skoglund, Elijah Stevenson, Paris Peterson, Emily Berry, Longmont Potion Castle, Lina Carter, Zainne Saleh and Isa Mazzei.

Screenplay by Isa Mazzei.

Directed by Daniel Goldhaber.

Distributed by Netflix. 94 minutes. Rated R.

Screened at the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Well, you have to give Cam credit for being unafraid of touching on some very sensitive subjects. This psychological chiller, based around the world of sex work and internet porn cam girls, is a surprisingly taut fright machine, even if its basic mystery is a tiny bit of a MacGuffin. What finally happens makes no real sense, but the film seems to be looking back unflinchingly, saying sometimes life makes no sense.

And, you know what? Even though they never totally solve the problem of explaining the doppelganger at the heart of this mystery, the movie on a whole works surprisingly well. If you just go with it and give them the benefit of the doubt that sometimes strange things happen, the film is totally worth the ride.

Madeline Brewer (Black Mirror, The Handmaid’s Tale) is brave to take this role on, a role that strips her naked physically and mentally. She plays Alice, a pretty loner who has been hiding her secret identity as “Lola,” an online camgirl who flirts, preens, undresses and plays for tips from a room full of strangers. “Lola” is upbeat, sweet, quirky and obsessively worried about her chat’s ratings, sure that if she can break the top 50 chats on the site – or dreaming big becoming the top chat – that her life will be perfect.

Therefore, “Lola” starts becoming more and more sensational, adding violence and fake blood to the tableau in an attempt to get more tips, and thus make her way up to the top. However, after one night where she broke her personal rule not to do group shows at the offices – preferring to work from a studio she set up at home – in order to break the top 50, which she does, Alice the next day finds herself locked out of her account.

When she checks the site to find out what is happening, she finds a woman who looks, talks and acts exactly like her has taken her place. This odd “Lola 2” acts out even more sensationally than the real girl, breaking all of Alice’s rules of conduct, ramping up the sex and violence and giving out personal information about Alice on cam. And the worst part is, the new “Lola” is getting more tips than Alice did and raising steadily in the rankings.

As Alice tries to regain her identity, the doppelganger ends up outing her to her family (who did not know of Alice’s work), lets her regulars think that she is interested in a real-life relationship and just generally makes Alice’s life a living hell.

It’s a hell of a set-up, and even if Cam isn’t always sure exactly how to get itself out of the puzzle box that it has built, it is still an intriguing and often fascinating film.

Pleasantly, the film, written by real-life former cam girl Isa Mazzei (she also plays one of Alice’s co-workers) does not judge the world it is portraying. Alice is not ashamed of being a sex worker, in fact until things go supernaturally awry she really enjoys it. It is almost a form of performance art to her, a way to shed her normally quiet personality and be someone else completely different.

Honestly, despite the fact that it is an interesting plot twist, the background portion of the cam girl world is much more interesting than the whole scary doppelganger angle, which never quite gets explained away satisfactorily.

However, even if the horror aspects don’t always make much sense, they still do work as chilling midnight movie fare. After all, let’s face it, if we expected every horror movie to proceed logically in the world, we’d be sadly disappointed. More importantly, you want to see something you have never seen before on film. Mission accomplished there.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: October 26, 2018.

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