Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Starring: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters, Devin Druid, Imani Hakim, Michael Dempsey
It is a bird? Is it a plane?! No! IT’S A NETFLIX MOVIE!
Though, to be fair, since the first quarter of 2018, the Netflix output has got better and includes some pretty decent new movies. Produced by Blumhouse, Cam joins the streaming giant’s canon of movies and follows cam girl Lola/Alice (Brewer) as she attempts to rise up the ranks of cam girls, funded by horny hog floggers, only to wake one day to find that her account has been hacked and a doppelganger has taken her place and her baying customers.
More and more movies now exist telling the horror of the internet and social media some good, some bad, some terrifying, others naff. Cam falls into the better category – it’s not perfect nor excellent, but it is a very good pseudo-horror movie fielding the question that some find horrifying to face, “what are you without your online persona?” and talks of the near-lust for adoration amongst the faceless. It’s also adept (and authentic) in showing how easily people can be manipulated if you just show and give them what they desire. To be fair, the fear of someone accessing your account and details online is terrifying, let alone when it’s your livelihood and source of income.
Madeline Brewer is excellent leading the movie and is really Cam’s only consistent character – whether that’s her sexed-up on-cam persona or her decidedly less glamorous ‘normal’ life. There’s a real authenticity to her panic, desperation and, also, her sultry Lola performances. Patch Darragh and Michael Dempsey are pure slime and manipulation in their roles as Lola’s adoring – and rich – fans/benefactors. Having impressed in 2017’s The Love Witch, it was nice seeing Samantha Robinson pop up too.
For the most part, the narrative and mystery were compelling and the clever writing helped keep the story fresh for its relatively short runtime. The ‘scares’ come more from the ideas rather than the execution – the ‘what ifs’ – but this is rammed home by Brewer’s performance and the grounded-ness that the device resides in. Certain elements felt underplayed - for example, Alice’s relationship with her family and the fallout of them realising her real job - which affected the conclusion slightly but generally everything was spot on. The glamorous sleaze of the cam world was captured well (allowing for some interesting and dazzling visuals) and the attitudes of those involved at any point were infuriating, charming and creepy all at once (Darragh and Dempsey as mentioned, but also the police officer that attempts to chat up Alice despite her asking for help). The ending was OK, maybe not satisfying enough given the build up to it, but it really could have been worse.
In different hands, Cam could have fallen into sleazier, schlocky territory but newbie director Daniel Goldhaber keeps everything in check, even when the twist begins to kick in. Boasting an excellent lead performance from Brewer and with some good restraint and smart writing, Cam prevails as an alarming, distinct horror-lite effort.
November 20th 2018