Advancements in technologies in film are more often than not depicted as evil and wicked to the human race. Shows like Westworld and Black Mirror reinforce this idea that humans struggle to adapt to new shiny toys. Technology is ever evolving and because we have a difficult time keeping up in the real world literature and film have a field day with this unknown. This is where Netflix’s Cam comes into play. In the era of live streaming one’s personal life online, Cam tackles issues of internet safety and identity on and off the internet, but how well?
The movie follows an up and coming cam girl, Alice (Madeline Brewer), as she performs in front of webcams for a prestigious number one spot. She partakes in everything from erotic showcasing to “self-harm”, almost anything to get her rank up in the leaderboards. Just as her popularity spikes a mysterious doppelgänger steals her account and online identity.
One of Cam‘s strongest attribute is the conversation it starts concerning an online versus “real” life. In the real world Alice is a timid daughter and sister trying to figure out her life. But online she is an object of desire with eyes glued to a screen for her. This raises the question of where do we draw the line?
We all have somewhat of an online identity (maybe not as extreme as Alice) that can seem different from our offline identity. Is that bad? Is that good? Can we somehow rectify and unify the two into one? Unfortunately, Cam does not deliver and leaves you hanging.
But before harpooning into where it really flops I want to highlight a particular sound design I found very interesting. We’ve all heard it before. It might be a ring, a ping, a zing, or a ring-ring. iPhones call it a tri-tone. These are the little notification rings our phones and computers make that make us dive for our devices. Admittedly, Cam creatively uses these little rings to build tension and suspense.
There is a scene in which Alice is performing and reaching an all time high. The more she complies with the audience the more tokens she is given. The tokens are accompanied by a familiar ring and get louder and louder, eventually taking over the soundtrack for that scene. Throughout the movie you begin to feel uncomfortable when ever that ring goes off.
Unfortunately a specific sound design is not enough to save Cam. The movie starts an interesting conversation but derails off the tracks soon after. It falls into a deathtrap of clichés taken from other uninspired horror thrillers.
There is a cat and mouse chase sequence from obligatory male nerd type that is too friendly with her. The movie attempts to elicit emotion through a mother and brother figure but they are only met with a grimace. Additionally the movie puts much of the blame on the internet and its services rather than the actual person behind the computer screen.
Perhaps the worst offence is taking the conversation of an online and offline identity nowhere. By the end of the film Alice doesn’t seem to have undergone change. Despite near death experiences, stalking and family shame, Alice finds herself in the same place both mentally and physically. Some can even argue that she is an a worst place than ever before. Was this done intentionally? What commentary does the ending leave us with?
By the end we are not given enough information to ascertain an ending. And what was with the doppelgänger? Was it some kind of demonic force? Who knows. I was left asking these odd questions that ultimately took away from the experience. A real bummer once you consider the chance Cam had to create a provocative and informative piece that shed light on cam workers and the like.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook tend to catch only the sunshine and rainbow aspects of our day to day. We sometimes make the mistake of believing it to be 100% reality. A movie about the tensions between an online identity and an offline one can be very relatable too many, but Cam is not the one. Distractions from clichés, weak characters and even the otherworldly, make it a forgettable experience.