Cam is a very effective thriller/horror film in the vein of the tv series Black Mirror, in that it takes a modern-day technology (in this case web-cams and video streaming) and goes a little bit into the future with it – albeit a rather dark future. It also has a very Videodrome-vibe; indeed, it’s often really a very modern-day Videodrome, complete with that films comparison of reality and the video-reality of the screen.
Alice Ackerman (Madeline Brewer, in a great central performance) is a cam girl, broadcasting online live semi-nude shows from a room in her home, appearing as “Lola”. Obsessed with her ranking on the cam site platform she is using, she gets more daring and provocative in her show in order to attract more views and earn more money from her viewers. During one episode she fakes her own suicide, pretending to slit her throat live on the net, and is rewarded with a high ranking. She then performs a sex-act with a friend who also works as a cam-girl, her desperation to hit the top ten making her susceptible to riskier content if it gets her more hits.
One morning however she wakes up and discovers she is locked out of her account and that “Lola” is somehow online. Alice accesses the live stream and finds out that sees a woman that looks, sounds and acts exactly like her. Thinking it might be recording being broadcast she soon discovers that this “Lola” is reading and responding to messages posted by her viewers. Of course Alice cannot fathom what is going on, and sets out to discover who/what this “Lola” is and try to get back her virtual persona that climbs up the cam site rankings doing increasingly salacious things as if to mock her.
Its a very taut, well-directed, smartly-written piece, and while it favours the feel of a Black Mirror episode it never feels like there’s any padding in its 90+minute running time. Madeline Brewer is particularly good and delivers praise for what must have been a tricky and demanding part. Mostly though, I really did enjoy those echoes of Videodrome and its questions of reality and of losing control- it’s a very clever, well-thought-out drama. One of the better Netflix Originals that I have yet seen, which is more than the premise might suggest.
One of the things I thought most rewarding is that the film never really over-explained anything regards who/what “Lola” is- I came to the opinion that it was likely a Military AI that escaped from R&D labs out into the internet and now ‘lived’ there, mimicking popular streams with virtual doppelgangers (Alice learns that the ‘number one’ cam girl on the site actually died six months before and is therefore another doppelganger), but that’s just my own reasoning, as the film itself explains nothing. There’s all sorts of questions regards identity and what is real. It offers tantalising suggestions but refrains from explaining anything, which I found refreshing- it’s nice watching something and being left to think reason things out.