2018 | Dir: Daniel Goldhaber | Starring: Madeline Brewer, patch Durragh, Melora Walters | Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Alice is a young cam-girl. Her online handle is Lola and she performs in a room for her online audience. They are mostly sex-deprived perverts who spend their entire income on tokens to enhance their online experience. The more tokens they give each girl, the more the girls will do. On one hand is it a seedy form of sexual exploitation, which arguably objectifies women. But on the other hand, the women are in complete control and conduct their business from the safety of their homes.
When Alice's online persona is hijacked by a doppelganger, her world spirals out of control as her lookalike takes over and performs lurid and extreme acts in her image. Unable to access her account she must find who or what is responsible and stop the fraud before it ruins her life, and livelihood. With wealthy old men throwing copious amounts of money at these girls, and creepy stalker guys imposing on her life outside of the cam-room, the suspects begin to pile up and the question of whether it is a legitimate attack on her profession, or a supernatural anomaly begs to be answered.
This is a fascinating and surprisingly taut thriller, the likes of which hasn't been seen. The simplest comparison would be Unfriended (2014) but the web-cam aspect is about as far as the similarities go. CAM is better suited to the tv series Black Mirror for a reasonable point of comparison, however it remains a story that hasn't been told before.
Madeline Brewer (Orange is the New Black) gives a knockout performance as Alice/Lola, and delivers an incredibly confident and courageous turn. She occupies 100% of the screen time, much of which is spent in compromising and lurid positions. She approaches the material with confidence and maturity and should be commended for her realistic and unflinching commitment to the story. Her supporting cast is small and includes Melora Walters (Magnolia), Devin Druid (13 Reasons Why) and Patch Darragh (Longmire). They are all good with Darragh being the standout. His awkward and creepy stalker persona is as equally sad as it is chilling, and having recently been impressed by his role in the Netflix series Everything Sucks, there's every reason for me to consider this guy a potential favourite of mine.
Thanks to Netflix and Blumhouse we have a refreshing and provocative new film, which might just set the benchmark for others to follow. It is likely to divide the audience down the middle as its seedy setting will be an expose to some people, while it will be an all too familiar environment to others. Depending on which of those you see it from, the impact of CAM might differ. Regardless of that, it is an original and well considered entry into the techno-thriller genre, which if successful will no doubt spark a string of likeminded cash-in movies. Don't be offended by this very real glimpse into a world you may not have known existed... instead be fascinated by it and consider it's structure and mechanisms, and then let the method of the film's deceptions get you thinking. This is clever stuff, and the pay off is – in turn – satisfying.