It’s practically axiomatic that digital media horrors are stinkers of epic proportion. Ever since Cronenberg abandoned it, the horror genre has yet to properly comprehend how we interface with ever-changing technology (with Videodrome still being the best of the bunch).
Cam is a very flawed, if valiant attempt to address this wrong, smartly focusing on a subset of digital media that’s already kinda horrific depending on how you look at it, webcam modelling.
Madeline Brewer plays Alice, whose alter ego Lola is a webcam girl on the outside looking in — at least when it comes to cracking into the lucrative Top 50 (that’s where there’s money to be made, and the highest tips are awarded: a Pavlovian token reward system based on a girl’s rapport with, and ability to fulfill the desires of, her male clientele. For a better understanding of how this works, please see our review of Hot Girls Wanted).
Alice/Lola soon finds herself stalked by one of her mouth-breather client-obsessives, and suddenly is unable to access her account.
Our society’s relationship with online pornography is a complicated one, and it’s damn-near impossible to reconcile sex positivity with the nagging feeling that there’s something inherently dehumanizing about this practice, both from the viewer and the performer’s perspective. It’s almost built into our DNA that we wouldn’t want any member of our family doing this.
Wisely, director Daniel Goldhaber exploits this antipathy, and builds contrapuntal balance with Alice’s disapproving working class Arizona family, and explores Alice’s strained relationship with her brother (even more savvy: the director doesn’t overly-rely exclusively on uber-cheesy thumbnail / web interface visuals, a huge debit for the well-nigh unbearable Unfriended).
Where Cam goes astray though, is its tone. The gritty realism (and depiction of the unreal world of camgirls) and brutally effective Kafkaesque identity theft elements, are greatly at odds with the film’s supernatural leanings. This is a film without a compass. There’s simply not enough surrealism baked into the cake to buy into the resolution, strange, given that this is a Blumhouse production and they take their supernatural horrors pretty seriously.
Still, with terrific performances (Brewer is a stand-out), and a novel take on this oft- (and justifiably) maligned horror sub-genre, Cam is worth a look, even if it falters badly in its final third.
*** (out of 5)