Cam is a horror-thriller from director Daniel Goldhaber and writer Isa Mazzei about a woman whose identity is stolen in a bizarre, Black Mirror-esque tale set in the world of online sex work.
Alice (Madeleine Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale) is cam girl woking under the name Lola. She’s obsessed with her stats, something familiar for anyone who works online, and is trying to climb into the top ten cam girls on her site. She’s ambitious, researching her rivals and coming up with elaborate shows to entertain her viewers, including staging a bloody suicide.
Alice is utterly consumed by her life as Lola, unable to log off or even stop messaging with her fans while having a conversation with her brother. This lack of boundary between her real life and online life means when she’s suddenly locked out of Lola’s account, it’s devastating. Once she realises ‘Lola’ is still performing, it’s even worse.
Some sort of doppleganger has hijacked Lola’s account, won over her fans and livestreams constantly, even breaking the rules Alice had set for herself (like not telling her fans she loves them). Alice can’t get tech support to help, nor can she get the police to understand. It’s a relatable horror story: people are doxxed, catfished, memed, used as revenge porn, etc. and there’s very little that can be done. The real world is still struggling to catch up with what happens on the internet.
As Alice tries to track down whoever’s imitating her, she ends up face to face with two of her most obsessive male fans. These scenes illustrate the tenuous relationship online personalities have with their audience — they might be Lola’s fans, but they still hold power over her. One brags about how he can make or break a cam girl’s career, and the other borders on stalkers tendencies. In her online exploits, they’re ready to abandon her for another girl at a moment’s notice, and use the chat to cheer on violence.
Fan entitlement and the lack of a fourth wall between fans and creators is an issue plaguing many online communities, and cam girls are no exception. Any distance between Alice’s ‘real’ life and online life is shattered by the doppelgänger Lola, who outs Alice as a sex worker to her family and invites fans to meet Alice in real life.
The film is a real showcase for Brewer, who gives an absolutely fearless performance. She masters the playful confidence as Lola, the eventual nervous breakdown as Alice and the eerie, uncanny valley-ness of doppelgänger Lola. Mazzei’s writing also shines, especially in her grounded and realistic depictions of sex work, but after mounting tension to a tense showdown between the Lola’s, the film loses steam in the aftermath.