At a website called FreeGirlsLive, Alice is working as a camgirl and broadcasting sexual live shows from her little home studio, using the nickname “Lola”. Like most camgirls, Alice has people around her who knows what she’s doing, and people who are completely unaware. Her mother thinks she’s working on some kind of web development, while her younger brother is well aware of her cam girl actions but has promised to keep it a secret. It isn’t all just sexy fun though, and like any follow/like-obsessed SoMe dependant, Alice is totally desperate to rise on the website’s rankings, hoping to one day finally be the number 1 camgirl on the site. After simulating her suicide by slitting her throat using fake blood, her popularity finally increases, and on the next show she’s gotten as far as the top 50 camgirls on the site (whooo!). Things seem to be going rather well. That is, until next morning when Alice finds that she can’t log in to her account anymore, but that’s not all, not even the major part of her problem…because even though she cannot log in to her account anymore, “Lola” is still active and streaming. Logging in through another account, she watches the stream only to see what looks like an exact replicate of herself, even the studio she’s made in her own home looks exactly the same. Confused and completely weirded out (understandably, who wouldn’t be) she tries to contact customer service, at first thinking it must be some kind of replay of her old shows. They tell her that the show is indeed live streaming, and Alice is now finding herself falling through a digital rabbit hole…
Cam is a 2018 horror thriller directed by Daniel Goldhaber. At first glance, it may appear to be a simple cat/mouse thriller where the camgirl is the victim of a stalker, but when Alice’s doppelganger appears in the movie it shifts into a mystery thriller where you feel just as confused about the situation as the main character is. It’s a creative way of presenting a horror story about the desire for digital fame and identity theft, where many of us are already so linked to the digital world that much of our work and personalities have their home there. Seeing someone taking over your accounts is something that would be a nightmare for many people, not just those who are using it for their income. I mean, there have been stories about people calling 911 and the police because Facebook and Instagram were down. Jeez. Some people literally have their entire lives online, and the concept of someone or something stealing your identity digitally, not just hacking your account but literally stealing you, that’s an idea that ought to give most people the heebie jeebies.
The movie has some references to Alice in Wonderland, and not just the character’s own name. Her other online screen names include “MadHatter” and “MrTeapot”, for example. While Alice during her travels in Wonderland was fueled by innocent curiosity, the Alice in this story is driven by low self esteem and the desire to become popular. Not just popular, either, she wants to be number 1, top of the list. And in order to achieve this, she’s willing to do something that she originally promised herself to never do: fake something (her “suicide”). It’s an obvious metaphor for being a sell-out: she ended up doing something she had vowed to never do, just to achieve those extra views/followers/hits/likes/validation/fame.
Visually, the movie is appealing and does a solid job on portraying the Cam Girl culture without being condescending, and the story is fast paced enough to keep the viewer interested in how it all unfolds. The actor who plays Alice does a believable performance. In the end, the movie’s conclusion may feel a little too open and leaving some loose threads, not completely explaining what was really going on, but still giving enough hints throughout that makes you able to puzzle some of the pieces together. Cam is a digital nightmare, and with an increasingly more complex AI that’s all over the place these days, a theme like this becomes even more relevant.
Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Writers: Isa Mazzei, Daniel Goldhaber, Isabelle Link-Levy
Country & year: USA, 2018
Actors: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters, Devin Druid, Imani Hakim, Michael Dempsey, Flora Diaz, Samantha Robinson, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Quei Tann