‘Cam’ is the first feature length film from director Daniel Goldhaber and, to say the least, this is an unconventional yet deeply suspenseful and uncomfortable horror film. Revolving around the taboo world internet camgirls, we follow one particular girl called Alice ‘Lola’ Ackerman (Madeline Brewer) who, in her quest for internet stardom, finds out that she has been mysteriously replaced on her site by an exact replica.
Now, to begin with, hats off to Madeline Brewer. This role definitely couldn’t have been an easy one to fulfill, however she pulls it off all the same. From the start of Cam we are shown how consumed Alice is in her webcam modelling, seemingly paying more mind to the random assortment of anonymous figures within her chat room in lieu if real-world relationships. As her full-time job, she relies on digital donations from users, who are mainly obsessive men who shower her with affection and gifts. We see how she is sucked into obsessively competing with the other users in a bid for online popularity. However, despite the initial sunny disposition of her world, cracks begin to reveal themselves. Yet, when finding one day that she’s been locked out of her account and inexplicably replaced by an impostor we begin to delve down a deeply tense and nail-biting path.
Cam is a smart and tense film and, despite being an entertaining horror experience on its own, serves an analogous look into the stigma that comes from working in the sex industry, the negative effects of social media as well as the deep-fake phenomenon. I think that’s what makes this such an unsettling movie is that it’s primary themes are quintessentially grounded in reality. In this current day and age we’ve all felt a little consumed by social media, through the buzz one feels after getting a ping from their phone (Cam also utilises this through sound association).
In Cam we see our protagonist experience every emotion under the sun, from ecstatic joy to rage. And yet, when all is concluded and her trial is over, Alice is simply drawn to make a new account – excusing the possibility of the events of the film repeating themselves by saying she’ll start over. In addition, earlier on in the film, a conversation with her mother revolves around the idea that she portrays herself as a more extroverted and excitable person as a part of her online persona, possibly alluding to the fact that people fantasise and act differently through the internet. Nevertheless, this, combined with her relationships with men she has met online, cultivates into trouble – with her being stalked and objectified several times throughout the course of the film. Cam also subtly portrays the faux mirage that social media can paint with the lighting and colouring of sets; whilst Alice’s cam show is shown through bright colours and lustful reds, the real world is, for the majority of the film, colourless and monotonous which, I feel, expresses the sad truth to many prolific users of social media and the internet in general as they attempt to convey a sense of fantasy that is somewhat voided from the real world.
As well as this, we see how her presence online as a new-age stripper has led to public humiliation for herself and others. For instance, Alice’s brother is shown to have been the victim of ridicule after his peers discovers his sibling’s presence in the sex industry. This in itself, taps into questions of the real-world consequences from the internet. However, perhaps the most frightening aspect is the prevalence of her online impostor which (spoiler alert) is effectively a deep-fake. The concept alone that machines can rob someone’s face and voice seems far-fetched and a dystopian nightmare, as demonstrated in this film, however it is indeed a reality – with some advanced deep-fakes becoming near unreasonably convincing to the human eye.
I found Cam to be a riveting and quite horrifying depiction of the real issues of social media and the internet in a somewhat Black Mirror-esque way. It was well shot and well acted, the likes of which genuinely led to scenes that oosed with tension. It was a positively uncomfortable viewing experience and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for director Daniel Goldhaber’s future work.