What if the disconnect that exists between you and your online identity became so great, that you lost control of your own existence? If that’s a brand of existential dread you subscribe to then Cam is a movie that may have you rethink some of the personal information you’ve been foolish enough to share online. From the producers of Unfriended, Summer of ’84 and Get Out, the dark distress beacon for the digital age held it’s world premiere July 18th at the 2018 International Fantasia Film Festival.

Cam is an incredibly clever, technologically driven psychological thriller that exists inside the world of live cam-girls. An honest and sincere look at the world of sex work, Cam is an anxiety fueled nightmare you cannot escape. In many ways, Cam is a cerebral body-horror that distorts our protagonist’s digital self, fracturing her mind and stealing her body.

 

“Cam is a cerebral body-horror that distorts our protagonist’s digital self, fracturing her mind and stealing her body.”

 

Cam follows Alice (Madeline Brewer), an industrious cam-girl climbing the Most Viewed Girls charts under her alter-ego Lola. For months, Alice has been trying to break the Top 50 by pushing the limits of her viewers expectations, offering them more and more extreme content. But dangerous content breeds dangerous viewers and soon Alice finds herself under the watchful eye of more than a few interested parties.

As Alice begins to gain a foothold in the big-leagues of the webcam world, she also finds herself in the cross-hairs of the elite cam girls. But after a disastrous nosedive in her rankings, orchestrated by a vindictive competitor, Alice logs on to find that she has been replaced…by another version of herself.

 

 

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At first Alice assumes the site must be glitching, replaying old videos but technical support assures her that is impossible. Unsure what to do next, she begins to chat with this new Lola. It isn’t until the duplicate replies in real-time that Alice realizes something is very, very wrong.

 

Cam is a tense, surreal look at online sex work and the idea of a person’s Self. If you woke up tomorrow to find that a doppelgänger had taken over your online identity, what would you do? If you were forced to accept an impossibility that could break you, would you give in or give up? Would you believe what you were seeing or would you assume you had finally gone mad?

 

“[Cam is] a gripping, psychological thriller that plunges you into a mind-bending mystery.”

 

Cam is directed by newcomer Daniel Goldhaber, who also shares a writing credit with screenwriter Isa Mazzei. A former cam-girl herself, Mazzei takes viewers into a world known for blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, where no one is the person presented on camera, especially Alice.

On the film’s official site a letter from “Anonymous” (Mazzei) discusses some of the frustrations of running a successful business on cam sites: “It was so important to me to be real (not even my orgasms were faked) that sometimes I got lost, wondering if the only difference between me and my persona was a name”. It was that separation between her online self and real-world self that would eventually lead to a gripping, psychological thriller.

 

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Cam is a tight story that follows our characters very closely. We know there is a larger world outside of the cam-girls and the fans but we never go deep enough to see past a few girls and there obsessive fans. There is an invisible network responsible for invading Alice‘s life that is untouchable and all powerful until they conveniently are not. The fear and trembling at the foot of the mountain is ultimately more interesting than the calm view from the summit is likely to be, but it still seems worth venturing up for a look.

Cam excels in building tension and confusion without every making you feel lost. We don’t understand what is going on because Alice doesn’t understand what going on. Cam easily contains some of the most interesting uses of technology and internet culture since Tragedy Girls, and is a must-see for anyone scared they’re losing themselves, one megabyte at a time.

3/4 eberts

 

Cam celebrated its World premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal on July 18th. The surreal thriller is a co-production of Blumhouse and Gunpowder & Sky. Cam stars Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale), Patch Darragh (The First Purge), Melora Walters (Boogie Nights), and Samantha Robinson (The Love Witch).

Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!

 

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