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It’s pretty rare for me these days to go into a film and not be aware of it being a Blumhouse produced feature, yet here we are. While seemingly coming out of nowhere, Cam is a surprisingly successful Netflix Original Film that will certainly turn a few heads.
With direction like this, you can’t help but feel immersed in this world of self obsession and wanting to be followed online. However, at times there are moments of slight disconnect from our main character as her career is a unique one that while taking a prominent place in the modern age of the internet, isn’t a media career some will be used to seeing. DANIEL Goldhaber’s direction manages to capture the paranoia and panic as the plot takes our main character for a ride as she must not only get her identity back from a mysterious entity, but gain her entire life back as well. Even with this praise, the direction does have its problems, which can be seen prominently in pacing, as several scenes feel misplaced or unnecessary to further the plot and actually cause a withdrawal of interest in these inconvenient situations. Lastly, Cam's direction was very straight forward. It didn’t take many risks, and while that’s not always a bad thing, when the director chose to take a risk in the final scene it felt clumsy and flawed in its execution. This unfortunately left a fascinating film with a forgettable finale.
Similar to the film Ingrid Goes West, Cam uses the obsessive nature of the modern age of having followers online and even takes it a step further. Our main character is a cam girl, who’s obsessed with being top of the chart and becoming a force to be reckoned with. However, after a night of discourse at a cam girl shared location, her account becomes locked and someone, identical to her, is in control. Now Lola (or Alice) must seek out retribution and gain back control before her image is destroyed completely to her fans, family, and her surrounding cam girls. The story isn’t as relatable as it is something that is a clear cut out of what could be happening in real life, with some restrictions to that of course. Just as Lola’s life comes crashing down around her, I as a viewer could feel her panic and her pain as she didn’t quite know what to do; especially with no one willing to hear her out. Screenwriter Isa Mazzei truly captures the obsessive nature of not only pornography in our culture, but the constant desire to gain media attention. She eliminates the definitive idea of having a safety net of knowing that you are anonymous behind a screen, and creates a terrifying psychological thriller out of the idea of being vulnerable (in any sense of the word) online. Even if the film becomes smothered with disbelief as the story courses onward with several twists along the way, the shocking reveal almost gives these obvious issues a pass.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Cam revolves around Alice AKA Lola (Madeline Brewer), a cam girl who is attempting to climb the leaderboards as fast as she can while staying within her own self contained boundaries and the men/women who obsess over her presence. Most of these men/women hide behind a username, never to be seen or heard from audiably. But then there are a few that stand out, and they have some inner demons. These characters are intentionally creepy and show the world as represented by the screenwriter, as they obsess over a woman they can never really have. Within Alice’s troubles of stolen identity, the film also takes time to explore family dynamic of a woman who hasn’t yet told her mother of her life in pornography. While personally the family dynamic is relatively weak, the stalker customers that Alice encounters sends shivers down my spine as her lack of protection from these men makes anyone question the security of our information online. Brewer is a main focus of the story and while the execution of her concluding moments of screen time weren’t the best, her performance truly shined - showcasing a woman who’s become maniacal and completely torn apart. While the lead carries the movie, the rest of the cast just can’t hold the film up, and at times even Brewer crashes into repetitive dialogue that could never have worked on screen.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Moments in the film bring about the question of exactly what movie was this composer watching while he was creating this score? Occasionally too somber and at other times too intense, it sounded as though it was in a fast paced action scene. Cam’s score sticks with you, but for a riveting soundtrack, it alone almost discards what is occurring on screen. By itself, the score is impressive, yet tagged with the film, it unfortunately doesn’t work as well as it’s meant to. What does work however is the realistic nature of the cam website along with all the attributes that come with being on one. When off the webcam, the film has a gritty tone to everything, and from family life to relationships, everything becomes much darker when off the cam. The sound effects are simple but eerie, constantly giving way to the darkness of the world hidden behind a screen virtual identity.
Not locked on to a computer screen the entire movie, the set design has a constant apprehension of what the real world should look like versus her other identity online. Within the film lays a gritty filter, always showcasing the dark world on and offline, never the brighter side of things. The makeup effects, especially the gruesome ending, had me in shock and awe. The visual effects are much more subtle than most other horror films of recent years, as most of Cam is built around set designs and the visual representation of Lola (and her doppelgänger) through webcam stream.
Cam will not be everyone’s go to film, as it will cause controversy among some and intrigue to others. It’s a psychological thriller mixed with a touch of horror, and it’s hard to understand the sudden switch of genre at the most crucial time. Even so, the story was immensely gripping and only let me go on very few occasions. It’s a film I’d certainly recommend to see for those who aren’t sensitive to this kind of material, but not one that I could see anyone making into a repeat watch.