Cam is a new Netflix horror movie about the internet. Specifically, the story revolves around Alice (Madeline Brewer), an ambitious camgirl, who wakes up one day to discover she’s been replaced on her show with an exact replica of herself, right after a show where she reached the top 50 camgirls on a popular website. What the hell is going on? Is this movie a cyber-thriller or a supernatural web-related horror flick?
Whatever it is, it works. Directed by Daniel Goldhaber at his debut, and written by Italian-American Isa Mazzei, Cam has a level of authenticity that’s not easy to come across in this new sub-genre of horror, nor it’s common in horror cinema in general, sadly.
Part of that is due to Isa Mazzei: she was (or she still is? I’ve no idea) a camgirl herself and she often writes about sex, women and things that make people uncomfortable. Alice’s character is perfectly designed to be realistic and the whole cam-shows, from what I understand, are extremely truthful and sincere in their depiction.
The realism of the story and its presentation help to pull the viewer in, whereas the characters – although devoid of any proper and in-depth development – are quite relatable and believable in their performance. Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale) really feels like the girl next door who lives in our neighbourhood: she’s given a hard task, which consists of performing within her performance, since when she’s on the show she basically has to be a different character for all those horny men. Kudos to her!
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Due to the compelling mystery (who stole Alice identity and why?) and the authenticity of the picture, Cam manages to be extremely uneasy and intense throughout its entire runtime. It’s one of those films where you feel like you need to catch your breath, but you can’t due to the constant sensation of being on the edge of your seat.
Yet, the pacing – which is fast and impressively balanced – makes cam really easy to sit through in terms of entertainment: the movie doesn’t feature any dull or unnecessary moment, with every scene leading to the next and providing a bit more of information to solve the mystery.
Goldhaber’s directing is also impressive, considering this is his first feature-length film: the editing never feels sloppy, the music fits every scene perfectly and the colour palette is spot-on, it makes you feel part of the show.
In terms of themes, Cam is also devoid of any obnoxious political agenda: it would be rather easy for a movie like this to pull the ‘internet is a dangerous place’ or the ‘women’s struggle in a men’s world’ card, but Cam avoids all of that presenting a simple story that’s entertaining, quite graphic at times, and chilling throughout.
Nonetheless, the movie has a few flaws, such as the moments when Alice – who, remember, is supposed to make a living out of the internet – relies on other people to solve her internet-related problems because she seems oblivious to how websites work. This is quite a noticeable inconsistency that could’ve been easily fixed with 10 more minutes of runtime where Alice tries in every way to figure out what’s wrong with her profile and only then she’d go to a hacker or something.
It also seems rather convenient when Alice’s loved ones find out what her job is. I mean, this reveal feels like it was shoved in just for the sake of having a family-related conflict.
However, I think the biggest issue Cam has is with the ending. Since I can’t discuss that without spoiling the entire movie, I’d suggest you to entirely skip the next paragraph and just check my final grade.
The ending of Cam poses a very difficult question: can a movie be good even if the story turns out to be nonsensical? In short, what happens at the end of Cam is this: through one of her most dedicated customers, Alice finds out that on many camgirl websites there’s something that steals the girls’ identity, a sort of computer program that utilises next-level technology to stay live as much as possible and interacts with the customers to, presumably, make money for someone. On paper, at least for me, this is an incredibly cool concept, because it avoids all the supernatural bullshit some of these flicks are filled with and also shies away from dumb plot twists a la ‘oh Alice had an evil twin all along’. However, upon mentioning what stole Alice’s identity, the movie never comes back to it to explain who, what or why. Alice just ‘defeats’ that thing (in a way that, admittedly, is very intense, graphic and nail-biting) and goes back to her job with a new profile. Although this ending isn’t as insulting as the ones of, say, The Boy or High Tension, it still manages to leave so many unanswered questions. This is not per se a bad thing. I mean, some horror films with a deeper meaning and filled the metaphors work better when the viewer has to figure out the underlaying messages and subtexts, but here we have a mystery thriller that, without a clearer and more explained conclusion, feels somewhat unaccomplished and unfulfilling. Bridging back to the question: can a movie be good even if many aspects and plotlines don’t add up? I’d say yes, it can. And Cam is definitely a good movie, one that will most likely engross and entertain you throughout. But also one that we’ll most likely leave you somewhat unsatisfied.