“Cam” is a Netflix Original that’s proven to be a lot more progressive than we’ve come to expect from the horror genre. An innovative thriller combined with a sympathetic, realistic portrayal of both sex workers and people who engage with sex work, this is a gorgeous-looking movie that deserves your full attention.
“Cam” tells the story of Alice, an ambitious camgirl who finds her identity stolen by a mysterious doppelganger. I didn’t expect to be able to relate to our sex worker protagonist, but Alice’s passion for her unconventional career made me care about her immediately. She’s professional and put together and has a bubbly, quirky personality; it’s not hard to see through her eyes. On top of that, her shows are known for being creative and a bit weird (while still being fairly restrained as far as sexual content goes). I intend this to be a spoiler–free review, so all I’ll say is that those scenes make the movie a whole lot more interesting to look at!
Blumhouse has really been pushing some good films lately, in the wake of the smashing successes of “Get Out, Happy Death Day,” and the “Purge” franchise. However, they could definitely up the ante when it comes to scare factor. Much of the fear I experienced while watching this movie was just from watching the protagonist’s life derail itself because of identity theft. At times, I found myself wishing they’d just cut to the chase so we could appreciate the face-stealing computer ghost a little more. I’m not gonna lie, I appreciate the lack of jump scares, but there are times when the movie seems to have attended the “Unfriended” school of glitching out the screen for an easy scare. But it also has its moments; doppelgangers are terrifying (as are cybersecurity breaches), after all, especially considering what this one in particular got up to online.
In addition to being a unique horror-thriller, “Cam” also serves as an eerie eye into the world of camgirls. It’s an interesting look at a line of work most of us can only really imagine about, and most likely, a very accurate one as well. The primary writer of “Cam’s” story and script, Isa Mazzei, is a former camgirl herself. She ensures that the audience won’t judge Alice on her occupation, creating a film that portrays camgirls in the least exploitative way possible. Mazzei also gives us a glimpse of the hardships and stigma of being a sex worker, exposed in the characters “Cam” explores — the cop that flirts with Alice after finding out how she makes a living; the entitled, high-tipping viewer who gets everything he wants; the obsessive but well-meaning fan; the little brother getting unwanted attention because of his sister’s occupation; and the rival camgirl hell–bent on stealing back Alice’s viewers. Alice’s experiences are drawn from Mazzei’s own real-life experiences — aside from the ghost hacker, that is.
Especially in horror, which is not known for being the most progressive of genres, “Cam” subverts all the tropes we’ve come to expect from camgirls. This movie takes a corner of the internet stigmatized for being dirty and wrong, and allows us to think of sex work as… well, work. Mazzei endeavors to humanize both camgirls and their clients on the other side of the screens, as she found many of her own cam viewers to be very respectful, and even considered some of them to be her friends. The film’s chilling premise was born from a time when Mazzei’s videos were pirated and spread throughout the internet, copied and uncredited. This feeling of alienation from her work and her body, brought about by a violation of her security, inspired the script of “Cam.”
So “Cam” isn’t your average scary doppelganger movie, but a creative reimagining of identity theft and internet piracy. Since many of the better Netflix films tend to just randomly appear on the site, like crop circles, they can be a little hard to find. With no visible advertising outside of the site itself, I feel like “Cam” deserved more publicity than it got. I think this film could have even been a fairly successful theatrical release, if it had been given the chance. I say, put this one on your to-watch list. And make sure you change your passwords regularly.