A camgirl, Alice, wanting to improve her ranking decides to try some experimental shows. One day she goes on her computer to find she is locked out of her account, and an imposter has taken her place. This perfect replica is threatening her livelihood and her identity. As Alice’s online persona threatens to destroy her real life, she tries to find out who the imposter is and take control of her life again.
Cam is the gorgeous brainchild of director Daniel Goldhaber and writer Isa Mazzei. Although, those titles are interchangeable as the pair collaborated on all aspects of their first feature film. The plot is absolutely fantastic for a number of reasons. The idea of not only having your identity and your income taken away, but to have it stolen from you by someone who is a perfect replica of yourself creates a very tense film. The helplessness Alice goes through as she attempts to get her account back, and how her camgirl life slowly seeps into her real life, is incredibly suspenseful to watch. There is a constant sense of panic from the moment viewers see the doppelganger, right up until the climactic end of the film. The end is also goes perfectly with the tone of the film and the filmmakers were wise in avoiding any kind of over-explanation of the events.
Probably the single most important reason this film is so compelling is that it was created by a former camgirl. Mazzei herself used to perform cam shows, and you can tell while watching the film. There is an authenticity to the portrayal of life as a camgirl and what it’s like doing this particular kind of sex work. It adds a heightened level of reality to a plot filled with unreality. It is fascinating to watch how camgirls have to navigate between their online persona, how they are with their fans, and how they interact with friends and family that don’t know about their work. Other films have used the camgirl concept in horror as a gimmick or as a way to add sex appeal, but none have done it with the care and realism of Cam.
In terms of the acting, I’m only going to talk about Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale, Orange is the New Black) as Alice because she is everything. It is wonderful to watch as Brewer portrays all the different sides of Alice. There is “Lola” the camgirl, there is how she interacts with her fans one-on-one, there is the real Alice, and there is the imposter. There is a clear distinction between each persona Brewer takes on. She is truly magical to watch, and she carries the weight of the film on her shoulder perfectly. It is impossible to not be mesmerized by Alice and Brewers portrayal of her, making viewers even more invested in Alice’s fate.
There are many artistic elements that heighten the film. For one, Cam is visually breathtaking. The color schemes between the camgirl world and the real world are very different. The scenes centered around camgirls and their shows are technicolor neon dreams. This hyper-stylized look emphasizes the fantasy of sex work and the mask put on by the camgirls. The scenes set in Alice’s life away from sex work contain more realistic colors and a gritty, less glamorous feel. The stark contrast emphasizes the duality of living the life of a camgirl. On top of being gorgeous to look at, the score for Cam is also perfect. Gavin Brivik composed an electronic soundscape that fits in exceptionally well with the technology-driven film. At times the score is dark and haunting, other times it is upbeat and entertaining. All of these elements combine to heighten the film to an unexpected level.
Cam is a technological thriller with a stunning and authentic portrayal of the life of a camgirl. The filmmakers truly excel at showing viewers the reality behind sex work, while also delivering an intensely thrilling horror film. The visual aspects and the score only enhance how spectacular the film is. Then of course there is Brewer’s outstanding portrayal of the many sides of Alice. Cam is a profound film as well as an entertaining one and it is a film I highly recommend everyone watch, whether you enjoy horror or not. At the very least, it may give you a different view of what it means to be a sex worker in the modern age.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10
Pro tip – Don’t watch the trailer (if you haven’t already). It has some spoilery elements. It’s better to go in blind.
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