Psychological thrillers are best when they’re relatable and (hopefully) original. ‘Cam’ ticks both boxes with camgirl Alice (Madeline Brewer from “The Handmaid’s Tale”) aka Lola facing the existential dread of being locked out of her account.
The existential dread any of us could fairly feel when locked out of Facebook or else ill-comparing to the horror confronting Alice; having climbed up the ranks and still seeking that top spot online she finds herself impersonated by an exact replica who doesn’t abide by the limits she’s set for subscribers.
Opening with an extended routine to followers all over, we are introduced to Alice not as Alice but as Lola; the camgirl, not she who has a fairly regular life albeit a mother she ensures knows nothing about her profession. Situating us in the position of any of her viewers, when we do meet Alice we’re already primed to see her as Lola, a dynamic no stranger to followers who turn up about the place or who would just as well only see Alice as her digital persona.
It’s a choice that works well for the film as Alice slowly sees her identity ebbing away as the imitator takes over her life; herself surrounded by people who can’t help or police who would rather hit on her. An extreme version of the anxiety many would feel disassociated from their online presence and no doubt reflective of tensions experienced by many in this community, Cam has been fairly praised for depicting members of the profession as, contrary to what many of Alice’s followers appear to readily surmise, multi-dimensional people, one of whom in this case has her particular fears brought to the fore by an especially inscrutable digital tormentor.
Centred and driven by a stellar performance from Brewer, known for The Handmaid’s Tale and her Black Mirror role, her multi-faceted and dedicated performance is one of surely many to come. Building tension throughout, Cam is however regretfully let down by its ending.
Introducing characters and dimensions to this story which depart just as quickly, when Alice begins to unravel a little more of just what is going on we are laxly treated to an explanation of the phenomenon that is affecting her and how it could have affected others when this element, and key to this the experiences of those in a similar position, are tantamount. Proffering limited perspective(s) on Alice’s foe if you will we are left with a frustratingly scant understanding of this terror as the film comes to a brief and largely inexplicable conclusion that seems moreover to be making a comment about the superficial element of Alice’s work, but one dimension of several at play here.
A clever concept done little justice by it’s conclusion, Cam is still worth a watch for a style of thriller that will surely be emulated and a performance from an up and coming actress with enormous promise.
Cam screened as part of Monster Fest 2018 and is now streaming on Netflix