Retrospective Review: “Cam”

Year: 2018

Runtime: 94 minutes

Director: Daniel Goldhaber

 

By Jenni Holtz

 

Doused in colorful lighting, Lola (Madeline Brewer) sits in front of a webcam with a knife in hand. She raises the knife to her throat and carefully presses down, releasing fake blood that flows down her front. Lola’s fans go wild, tuning in to more of her shows and sending her tips. Lola, who goes by Alice off-cam, is thrilled — she’s moving up the ranks of the live-streaming site thanks to her hard work crafting unique and exhilarating shows like the fake suicide show. With her newfound success, Alice continues to set up eye-catching shows to move further up the ranks. Another cam girl gets in her way, though. And she looks freakishly similar to Lola/Alice. The film takes a quick turn into psychological horror territory as Alice embarks on a mission to find the doppelganger and get to the bottom of things. 

cam room scene

“Cam” (2018) is the debut feature from director Daniel Goldhaber and writer Isa Mazzei. Mazzei, a camgirl herself, lent her experiences to the film. This year, she released a memoir, “Camgirl” on the topic. Being a camgirl is a form of sex work, something often stigmatized in media and real life. By having a sex worker write the script, “Cam” avoids falling into negative stereotypes of sex work. Instead, “Cam” is an awesome psychological horror movie that draws elements from the very real sexism and fears felt by those in the sex work industry. Some of camgirl’s worst fears, including stolen identity and overzealous fans come to life in horrific ways in the film.

cam glitter

Madeline Brewer gives an enthralling performance as Lola/Alice. Brewer has previously starred in the massively popular series “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Orange is the New Black,” so she is no stranger to dark stories. In “Cam,” Brewer takes center stage in a dual role, playing Lola/Alice and the doppelganger. There are other cast members, but Brewer’s characters are the main players. Most of her interactions take place online, where she interacts with her viewers, her doppelganger, and other sex workers; leaving Brewer to carry the film mostly on her own. She shows a deep understanding of the layers of emotion piled atop the life of a sex worker. As things heat up, viewers sympathize with her and root for her to survive malicious attacks. She leaves an impact on the audience with a moving, creepy, and captivating performance.

“Cam” is creative, effective, and deeply disturbing without showing gratuitous gore. Instead, the film uses horror as a mechanism to call attention to the issues of sexism, exploitation, and identity theft that are real problems for sex workers. It’s a great film for fans of horror, those interested in learning about sex work, and for those in the industry who can truly empathize with Lola/Alice’s situation. 

 

“Cam” is available on Netflix.

 

4.5 stars

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