This cyber-horror, written by former online sex worker Isa Mazzei and directed by her close friend Daniel Goldhaber, toys with the idea that your online identity can easily be stolen for financial gain. It also superbly taps into the very real horror that women’s images are regularly cloned and digitally manipulated to humiliating ends.
The woman at the centre of the film is an erotic webcam performer whose career and psychological state take a severe knock when a doppelgänger appears online and locks her out of her account. It turns her ordeal into a tense viewing experience that makes a vital point about women’s bodies and their choices to do with them what they wish without fear of being harmed or condemned.
Madeline Brewer stars in the lead role as Alice, turning in a performance that switches between playful and hugely relatable. The film begins by introducing the viewer to Alice’s cam channel, as she puts on a show for her followers. She’s determined to reach the ‘Top 50’ and is excited to push boundaries to get there — Alice’s thirst for online popularity rings true in the age of YouTube celebrities who earn big bucks.
This first act ends with a gory fake suicide as she slits her throat for devoted fans. Her brother thinks it’s cool, though she is waiting to tell her mum about the job until she feels like she is successful enough. As a detailed character portrait set in the digital age it shows the clear definition between Alice’s personal family life and what is essentially a public brand.
Once Alice has been stripped of her autonomy her anguish begins. She enjoys her job, is ambitious and most importantly sets her own regulations as to how she entertains her clients. The doppelgänger engages in activities that go against Alice’s personal rules and keeps dangerously raising the stakes. As word spreads about her career the smartly written and layered script calls out prudish and toxic attitudes towards sex workers. It holds a mirror to a society that shames women but strangely not the creepy men who gleefully cheat on their wives or are unable to differentiate between reality and an online persona.
Cam is showing at London Film Festival on 20-21 October.