16th November 2018 (Netflix Premiere)
Alice, an ambitious camgirl, wakes up one day to discover she's been replaced on her show with an exact replica of herself.
Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters
Alice is a cam-girl. Under the pseudonym “Lola” she performs in front of a camera for an online audience of hundreds, enacting their deepest fantasies (sexual or otherwise) in return for tokens. It’s a living, but it’s also her obsession.
Barring a few well-defined boundaries (“I don’t do public shows, I don’t tell my guys I love them and I don’t fake my orgasms”), Alice will do anything to bring in the numbers, desperately vying for a place in the top 50 girls on her streaming site. But just as she’s getting there, it’s all taken away. Alice is locked out of her account and makes a chilling discovery: someone who looks exactly like her is streaming in her place; and worst of all, they’re better at it.
Without Alice’s rules, the doppelgänger soars up the charts, but muddies her reputation and even causes repercussions in her private life, previously kept safe in ignorance from her online world. With both her identities at stake, Alice sets out to find this imposter and reclaim what is hers.
Netflix Original Cam signals the first film in a (hopefully) landmark partnership between the streaming giant and Blumhouse Productions, who have been a defining hand for horror in the 21st Century. The Insidious franchise, the Paranormal Activity franchise, Split, 2018’s resurrection of Michael Myers in Halloween and of course the huge success that was 2017’s subversive thriller Get Out all came from the doors of Blumhouse. With the addition of Cam to their cannon, Netflix have a film that can proudly sit on that list.
Isa Mazzei, a former cam-girl herself, has written a story that feels both fresh and pristinely genuine in a world of Twitch and YouTube celebrity, jabbing at the pursuit of online success as well as the frailty of our online personas and the barriers separating them from our real lives. It’s also thrillingly paced as Alice chases the new Lola, her life unravelling around her.
Alice’s dual life is brilliantly represented, particularly in the film’s opening act. Juxtaposing her normal straight-edged everyday life, we see the intricate construction of her online identity, from her ever-accommodating friendly demeanour, right down to the fashionable cyberpunk pink/blue lighting of her bedroom set.
In a dual lead role is Madeline Brewer (Orange is the New Black, The Handmaid’s Tale) who is excellent as Alice, desperate and vulnerable at times, committed and furious at others, but also as the imposter: mocking and quietly sinister. So much relied on her performance and the result is one of Cam’s true strengths.
Daniel Goldhaber’s filmmaking is sharp and efficient: unassuming at times but jumping to the forefront when necessary, complementing the plot perfectly. The score follows suit: thumping beats, serving as a quickening, surrogate pulse, leave you white-knuckled in anticipation but are used sparingly, methodically raising the film’s tempo before the film’s vicious end.
It’s a hell of a ride, and while the ending might not be as polished-perfect as some audiences would like, it’s a fitting climax for a film that is both electric-paced and dripping with meaning. As with Get Out, Blumhouse have produced something that is not only a great thriller, but also a needle-sharp commentary on a huge aspect of our modern, virtual dependant society – A commentary that is only going to become more and more relevant in time.
Madeline Brewer’s fantastic dual performance
A fresh, genuine story for the internet age
Some may find the climax a little too open-ended