Content Warning: Suicide, Self harm
Sex and violence. In a horror movie, they go hand in hand. They’re the topic of a lot of pearl-clutching by people who hate the genre. If that’s you, then you’ll hate this movie. But if you want to watch a horror movie that explores violence against women, exploitation, and influencer culture, then definitely watch Cam.
What is this movie even about?
Alice works as a cam girl. She’s completely obsessed with numbers and just wants to make it into the top 50 broadcasts. The opening scene of the movie shows what sets her apart: she does crazy, violent shows that involve suicide and self harm. Her suicide shows make her move way up in the rankings, but afterwards, something bizarre starts happening. First, Alice gets locked out of her account, seemingly for no reason. When she calls tech support, they tell her that she is broadcasting live. Sure enough, she checks her channel and finds someone who looks exactly like her broadcasting from what looks like her room. Things escalate from there. As the doppelganger starts climbing up in the rankings, using more and more graphic violence, Alice freaks out more and more. She calls the police, who harass her and tell her that she deserves it for being a cam girl. She asks a creepy, almost stalkerish fan for help, and he admits that this isn’t the first time this happened. Things come to a head when Alice calls into the doppelganger’s show and decides to reclaim her identity once and for all. At the end of the film, she tricks the doppelganger into deleting the account, and starts fresh with a new look and identity, ready to start climbing the ranks once again.
So who’s the doppelganger?
In my opinion, the worst part about this movie is that, at first glance, the plot makes no sense. I think it works as a sort of confusing, Lynchian horror movie on its own. At the same time, I had a new appreciation for Cam after I looked up an explainer for the ending. I’m not going to spoil the twist, but if you are planning on watching this movie, I would highly recommend looking up the r/horror reddit page for it so that you can fully understand it. Also, I think the obsessed fanboy/lowkey stalker character could’ve been utilized better. He’s made to seem as though he’ll provide answers for Alice’s questions, but only muddles the plot further. That is honestly my only qualm with this story.
What was good about it?
First and foremost, the aesthetics of this movie are phenomenal. Katelin Arizmendi, Emma Rose Mead, and Victoria Foraker all deserve a huge amount of praise for the cinematography, production design, and set decoration, respectively. The bright colors and shadowy interiors make the sets pop while also showcasing Alice’s unraveling. Cam is a beautifully designed movie, and it’s worth watching for that alone.
The story of this movie has a great structure, too. Not a moment while I watched this that was I bored. You might think that a movie about a haunted cam girl would get boring or lose shock value, but this film was consistently gripping. I think a big part of that was Alice as a character. She subverted tropes and expectations by being a truly ambitious and greedy person, unashamed about being a sex worker. Seeing her self-esteem be completely based on her ranking was fascinating and dark. The men that watch her show are also very creepy, and added a lot to the horror of the story. Ultimately, though, Alice stopped at nothing to get to the top and that kept me watching.
Finally, I really liked how this movie didn’t glamorize being a cam girl. It shows Alice meticulously cleaning her space, being utterly dependent on the whims of her viewers, and pushing herself to exhaustion just to eke out a living. It would have been very easy for this movie to make her life seem easy. Instead, the writers chose to add to the terror by showing us that this career is Alice’s only lifeline out of poverty. Losing it would be catastrophic for her. The movie has a phenomenal last scene along these lines, which I will not spoil.
While there were definitely a few story choices that could have been executed better, in my opinion, this movie was way better than I expected. I love creepy, psychological horror that also passes the Bechdel test. Cam definitely fit that bill. Catch it on Netflix and see for yourself.(4 / 5)