Cam review Madeline BrewerYear: 2018
Director(s): Daniel Goldhaber
Writer(s): Isa Mazzei, Daniel Goldhaber
Region of Origin: US
Rating: n/a
Color, 94 mins

Synopsis: Alice, an ambitious camgirl, wakes up one day to discover she’s been replaced on her show with an exact replica of herself(Source)

It’s an accepted truth that we now live two lives. One in flesh and blood, and another in the digital realm. As we grow inextricable with our online avatars, is the gulf between who we are and who we pretend to be narrowing or growing larger? This is one of the biggest ideas in Cam. Above all, the film spotlights the truths and facsimiles found within the world of webcamming. Isa Mazzei’s script is also the most definitive story on the subject to date. Pulling from her own experience as an ex-cam girl, Mazzei knocks down stigmas about sex work, its occupational dangers, and the search for connection and identity that happens within. On the other end, Daniel Goldhaber’s tense direction and visual panache leans into the fact that all of this is based in the real. The results amount to one of the year’s most unsettling horror films.

Online, Alice (Madeline Brewer) goes by the name of Lola and cams for a popular website. She’s amassed a loyal group of fans, has rules that she sticks to and has a genuine rapport with those who regularly tune in. Still webcamming is extremely competitive, and she’s constantly trying to stay relevant while chasing a rank in the top 50s. Just as she’s about to hit this goal, she’s mysteriously locked out of her account. Even more jolting, she’s been locked out by someone that looks and acts exactly like her. Distraught, and desperate to reclaim her identity, Lola’s search for answers builds an unexpected bridge between her online persona and the real life she’s worked so meticulously to separate.

Goldhaber’s stylish execution and Mazzei’s attention to detail make this high concept thriller a socially relevant, heart-pumping experience. Though there have been countless films about the danger of technology, this film goes one step further. It’s a very scary exploration of the people we become when curating a version of ourselves without any consequence. The results, of course are different on both sides, be it from Alice’s point of view, or those who follow her. The film does a great job of delineating both Alice’s real relationships, featuring bonds with her mother and brother, and her followers, who begin to spill into the real world. Even with these ideas, the film offers no short supply of uneasy truths. Despite the innate horror in contrasting real and digital, the film’s doppelgänger plot adds another layer of terror. As Alice is taunted and erased by an anonymous clone, the film dips in and out of a surreal dream state, making us genuinely question what’s real.

Cam Madeline BrewerThe film of course hinges on the dual performances of Madeline Brewer. Right from the get, Brewer offers up a unique perspective, bringing to life a character caught between two worlds. With such complex material, Brewer commands the show, contrasting dual identities in a way that disorients as much as the film’s mystery. All in all, this is a great starring role for Brewer, who really sells the film’s stakes and ideas.

In a world where getting locked out of your social media account is the same thing as losing an identity, Cam is a smart critique of the zeitgeist. Though the film does call out online aggression, it also seeks to find empathy with almost everyone involved. With its strong premise and even smarter writing, this is rare, bold and necessary filmmaking. It has the thrills that we crave as a horror fan, but also challenges the ideas it’s built on. If you’ve seen films like Unfriended or Searching, this is an excellent companion piece, taking the emerging “screen life” subgenre and adding a sex-positive spin to it. Like the best horror films, this is a vulnerable, inescapable reflection of reality, laying out our most potent fears in a way that cuts through.

SG