08th Aug2018

Fantasia 2018: ‘Cam’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Devin Druid, Samantha Robinson, Melora Walters | Written by Isa Mazzei | Directed by Daniel Goldhaber

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The internet. The great democratiser. In the case of sex work it has allowed women to take control of how, when and where they work – mainly through cam sites like Adultwork, Chaturbate, MFC and more…But despite the ease of access to a performance outlet, the audience has access too – to performers lives, their personalities, etc. Yet there has to be boundaries. Which is why many sex workers create online personas, some using their own character traits others inventing entirely new ones, to create an extra layer of protection between their online life and their offline life.

Very much a “what if?” tale, Cam takes that idea of created personas and asks what if our online personas took on a life of their own?

“I don’t do public shows, I don’t tell my guys I love them and I don’t fake my orgasms.” These are boundaries that Alice (Madeline Brewer) strictly maintains in the daily hours that she becomes her webcamming alter ego Lola. She keeps her performance work tightly sandboxed from her personal life, as it must be. One day, Alice finds herself unable to log into her account. Someone is already on, using her profile. She hits the site as a guest and discovers that somehow, against all reason, she’s been replaced on her page with an exact duplicate of herself, inexplicably camming from her very home. A duplicate that knows personal things only she could know. And is extremely less guarded about any issues of privacy.

Starting out showing what the life of a cam girl entails: chatting to those watching her shows, planning extravagant games to play, sex shows to arrange… all the time pursuing the goal of being the top-rated girl on the site. To do so involves a combination of viewership and payments from the punters watching, requesting Lola to do certain tasks in return for larger and larger “tips.” Only Lola’s shows aren’t your normal cam shows – I doubt there’s any cam girl working on MFC (aka MyFreeCams), the site on which the machinations of camming in this film are CLEARLY based on, has ever taken to slitting her own throat! Lola does, which is why – honestly – its not stretch of the imagination to picture her going further, darker and even more extreme when her doppelganger takes over…

Speaking of which, Cam plays out very much like an online version of the 1993 Drew Barrymore film Doppelganger, a film which shares a similar psychosexual bent, although in the case of this film the subtleties of the 90s sub-genre of sexual thriller are forgone for the more extreme nature of sex-on-demand. Cam plays into the generational fear that with sex and sexuality so easily to come by it becomes more and more “normal.” A good thing perhaps; but gone here are sexual norms, Lola’s audiences wanting more extremes and her doppelganger providing it to them without question – all to reel in her audience to pay for what they’re watching and make her number one.

Kudos must go to writer Isa Mazzei and director Daniel Goldhaber telling a story based on online sex work, putting the spotlight on the growing trade; however at the same time Cam demonises it – ultimately confusing the message. Sadly the denouement, showing the aftermath of this complex and complicated tale, spoils what has come before. Alice’s character arc neutered by the choice she makes, ultimately learning nothing from her experience…

Cam screened on Wednesday July 18th as part of Fantasia 2018

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