Cam: The Internet will pixelate your soul in Blumhouse’s horror hit


Cam, an eye-popping horror, thriller, sci-fi movie, from Blumhouse Productions, premiered last week on Netflix. An industrious camgirl tries to perfect her online persona until she is replaced by an exact replica of herself on the Internet.

Cam writer Isa Mazzei places you directly into the world of a camgirl. There are no cop-out voiceovers that try to explain it for you. Instead, each new turn of Cam‘s story serves as the exposition of the life.

Cinematographer Katelin Arizmendi (Before Mars) uses a lot of the natural lighting that you would expect to find: the glow of screens, the pop of neon lights, and the incognito shade of restaurants. The scenes that take place outside of the cam world hurt my eyes.

It’s the same way I feel after being under fluorescent lights for too long. It’s like you are  hyperfocusing on everything.

Director Daniel Goldhaber (Bad Kid) brings us down a logical path. But, whenever I thought I had a hunch about something, the film would quickly prove that wrong and then deepen the mystery. It was nicely done.

There were no Law & Order level twists waiting for us in a sloppy smash cut. There was just solid storytelling. The script and acting were allowed to shine.

This is a breakout role for Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale). Cam is a one woman show with other actors present only to fuel her performance. They were important to the story, but they couldn’t overshadow her ability to demand your attention.

Cam takes a deep dive on the depravity of the Internet, social media personas, and artificial intelligence. I loved every minute of it.

The Final Frontier

The Internet is a lot like space and our oceans. They’re all vast open areas that we fill with junk. We know how they work.

And, because of that knowledge, we know there’s a lot of things we have yet to discover or understand about them. They’re also all scary.

No. That’s not a stretch. I get that the Internet is a human creation, but all we did was create a vacuum. We know how bandwidth works and how much to charge for it. But no one could have ever really predicted everything that would happen in cyberspace.

The dark web is a whole separate topic. Dark things happen on the dark web.

From non-password protected coffee shop wi-fi, you can log onto Free Girls Live, the website in the movie, and watch women do whatever the chat room asks them.

The account is free. But, if you want real access, you need to pay money. If you want the cam girl to do what you want, you have to tip her.

Sometimes polls and votes are offered up by the camgirl. Votes are in the form of more tips. It’s like the non-nude, yet ultra sexual, version of super chats on YouTube channels.

Alice uses the cam name of Lola. She approaches the whole cam girl game as an act of liberation. Sure, you can cam for upwards of 70 hours per week.

But, you keep half of everything you earn. Based on Alice purchasing a $4,900 couch on a whim near the beginning of the film, it’s safe to say she is banking quite well.

She even keeps track of her ratings. What did she do on cam today plus how high she got in the rankings. It’s a metric she uses to keep things fresh and a reference to rely on if ratings drop too low.

This might not seem bad until you witness the giddy depravity of Lola’s devoted followers. One of the best gimmicks she has going is to end her shows by committing suicide. She’ll use a knife or anything that is suggested for the right price.

The applications and effects she utilizes are feature film level. And the fact that Lola and her chat treated this as normal made my jaw drop.

Twitter Handles That Grab You

We spend time with Alice as Alice, but there isn’t a whole lot of character development there. She has a decent connection with her brother Jordan (Devin Druid). She loves her beautician mom (Melora Waters), even though she chides Alice on trying to keep up her appearance more.

Most of the film is spent on Alice’s efforts to create and build Lola. Alice reaps the benefits of Lola, but Lola is the character that really lives and thrives.

True. Lola thrives on sexually pleasing the highest bidder over the Internet. But, this never appears to be a chore. Alice loves portraying Lola. We never feel sorry for her because she never feels sorry for herself.

The idea I got was that Alice was a restless kid who didn’t want to end up working a nine to five job. Some people go on big trips overseas to find themselves. Instead, Alice creates an avatar of herself on the Internet and builds it based on what sells.

That’s a real thing that happens to people. We’ll get so invested in our online footprint that it will be far bigger and louder than our real, tangible selves.

The sci-fi aspect of the movie kicks in at this point. Alice is a full throttle business woman who is really trying to build her Lola brand. But she can barely crack the top 50.

That’s when Lola becomes real within the realms of the Internet. She holds her own shows and interacts with her fans. Lola can even do more outrageous and realistic suicide scenes because is literally CGI.

Most of the time we do spend with Alice as Alice is her shocked and desperate quest to figure out what the hell is happening. This is worse than getting her identity stolen in real life. Someone has stolen her online persona. And it’s doing better than her in the ratings.

Alice’s mom even tells her that she should try to be more like Lola, which is a blow that clearly lands on Brewer’s face.

The Assimilation will be X-Rated

The men in Cam are not the enemy. But they are threats. Pathetic, controlling threats.

Tinker (Patch Darragh) is a straight up stalker. He’s also profoundly sad. I’m not saying you’ll feel bad for the guy. I just felt bad that someone like him is probably out there.

He calls Alice’s personal cell. He sends her constant messages via text and in-app chats. And he moves to Alice’s town where he starts showing up in her life. Yup. Creeper.

The saddest part is when we find that Tinker has no possessions besides his laptop. He’s spent all his money tipping Lola and moving to where she’s at. He lives in a motel.

Alice has another in-person encounter with a cam regular named “No Beans” Barney (Michael Dempsey). He’s gross. And he tries to physically harm Alice when he realizes that she’s not Lola.

We learn that other girls have experienced their doppelgängers taking over. Almost all of those girls have disappeared or died.

Alice realizes that her online persona had become too much of her real persona. She is able to defeat Lola. She doesn’t give up Cam life, though. Alice simply creates a character that looks less like her.

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And that’s a bold statement. The Internet is a vacuum that holds personas that we create. But if we become more invested in that life versus our real life, it’s as if we are already beginning the assimilation with Artificial Intelligence.

Scientists and stoners have always feared that computers and machines would combine with us and make us less human. But, with social media and sites like Free Girls Live, we are already pixelating the humanity out of ourselves. That’s creepy.

Have you watched Cam yet? What did you think? Let’s discuss in the comments!