Netflix’s new horror thriller Cam is one of the smartest, rawest genre films of the year, introducing audiences to the world of online sex work in the camming community and the passionate passion of the women who make a living from it. Written by a former cam girl Isa mazzei, Cam offers far too rare honesty and respect when it comes to portraying sex workers online, and thanks to Mazzei’s collaboration with the director Daniel Goldhaber and actress Madeline Brewer, Cam is also a bold and successful thriller about the fear of losing your identity online.
Brewer plays Alice, an ambitious young cam girl who performs as Lola on the FreeGirls.Live site, where she embraces her unconventional creative vision to rise through the ranks and make a living. Alice is passionate and motivated, fueled by the desire to realize her creativity and become one of the best girls on the site. She loves what she does for a living. She presents themed shows (her weekly calendar notes inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins, for example), and moves away from more conventional stripteases, painting shows, spanking sessions tinged with BDSM, Alice pushes back the limits with its performance. In the opening scene, she stages her own death, slitting her throat after having a performative fusion on camera. Her fans adore her and her ranking climbs, leading her to the coveted Top 50.
Her rise attracts the attention and wrath of a cruel girl known as the princess (Samantha robinson), who asks her fans to lower Lola 10 places before starting her show. As the passionate and driven performer that she is, Alice doesn’t back down, she doubles up, goes to a camming studio, and performs a show on a Vibatron (a Sybian-style intense orgasm machine) to regain her place. It works and she has a good night’s sleep on cam, but everything changes when she tries to log into her account the next morning and finds out she’s locked out. Worse yet, his account is sort of live. She watches herself splashing around in an inflatable pool, sitting in an exact replica of her cam room. Alice assumes that FGL is in trouble and is playing an old show, but when she tries to tell her fans that something is wrong in the chat, she is immediately banned.
Things go from weird to downright terrifying when she realizes it’s not a recording – it’s happening live and she can interact with herself. When Lola addresses Alice directly by her username, Alice realizes that there is something much stranger and more sinister at play. Alice is confused and scared (and unable to work), trying resolve the issue through the appropriate channels, but neither FGL nor the police are doing anything to help. While investigating alone, she turns to her loyal client Tinker (Darragh patch), who knows just enough about what’s going on to point Alice in the right direction. “I found him like you. I think it might take whatever he can find from you online,” Tinker says when she confronts him. “It’s on all cam sites.”
Tinker doesn’t spell out exactly what “it is,” but he admits that he knew Lola was going to be copied and replaced. “I’ve looked long enough to guess who he’s going to choose. I don’t know what it is or how it will work, ”he says. Their meeting makes it clear that Lola isn’t the first copy, and soon Alice discovers BabyGirl_, FGL’s best camgirl and another girl who has clearly been copied. Her shows share an exact dialogue with those used by the Lola lookalike. Looking for more information, Alice meets Barney (Michael bempsey), one of her biggest dumpsters and a “whale” member of FGL, who loyally tips several of the best girls on the site. Barney reveals that BabyGirl_’s real name is Hannah Darin, and when Alice searches for the young woman on Google, she discovers the horrible truth that the real Hannah died in a car crash months ago – but her copying continues to play live shows online.
Armed with new information, Alice uses Tinker’s account to set up a confrontation with Lola Two, using her humanity as her strength. She sets up a conversation with Lola, showing people in the chat that there are two versions of her. She brings Lola into a game of “monkey see, monkey do”, where viewers decide who is the winner by voting. Lola wins the first round of voting, but then Alice builds on her strength – she’s real and her vulnerability is part of what her fans love about her. She slams her face against her table, brutally breaking her nose. Lola can’t follow suit, glitch, and the votes shift in Alice’s direction. She wins, and as a prize, she asks Lola to restore her access to her account. The room stops tipping until Lola complies, and Alice immediately logs in and deletes the Lola_Lola account for good.
You might think Alice’s terrifying experience would keep her offline for good, but she’s committed to her job and being a cam girl. Alice reinvents herself – a new look and a new cam room, and the new name EveBot. She knows what’s going on now and she’s ready to fight back. Determined to move up the ranks again, Alice tells her mother that if she is copied again, she will just delete the account and start over. Nothing is going to stop him from achieving his goal.
So what exactly is the mysterious force that is taking control of these cam girls’ accounts? When I sat down with Mazzei, Goldhaber, and Brewer after their Fantastic Fest screening, I took the opportunity to dig the ending with them. “It’s an algorithm based on Lola One,” Brewer explained. But Goldhaber and Mazzei definitely didn’t want to explain it to the public. “We had versions of the script early on where she would find Lola and there would be servers and stuff. In the end, Goldhaber explained, it was “just distracting from the core of the story, because it’s a fractured identity story.” He continued, “It’s going to be from Alice’s point of view. Alice doesn’t really care what it is, she just wants to get back on her show.
This willingness and ambition to return to work was a key part for Mazzei and Goldhaber, which looked like movies like Black Swan, Whiplash, and even Rocky as a source of inspiration – As Goldhaber said, films about “a passionate artist who will stop at nothing to do his job”. And just like the artists in those films, who return to their passions despite all the cost and suffering of their art, Alice does return to it in the end. Mazzei explained, “That’s exactly what Alice does. She goes through this hellish experience and at the end of course she is going to go back and do what she loves, because that is what she loves, there is no other choice for her. . “
Cam is now streaming on Netflix.
It’s almost surprising that this movie hasn’t happened yet.
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