Cam (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): A little creepy cyber thriller film from Nexflix

Netflix film “Cam” is a little cyber thriller film which is not only creepy and disturbing but also engaging and thought-provoking. As gradually pushing its heroine into one nightmarish situation which may be quite possible someday, the movie generates a number of darkly compelling moments to remember, and, thanks to its sharp, efficient storytelling, it also works as an edgy commentary on how willingly we put ourselves on the Internet these days.

The movie opens with its heroine going through her usual work routine at her residence. As one of numerous young, attractive women working on a live webcam site, Alice (Madeline Brewer) has tried hard for getting into the top 50 on the popularity list, but her result has been rather disappointing. Even after she tries a little shocking act for drawing more viewers to her chatting room, she does not even reach to No.50 yet, and she cannot help but envy the girl at the top of the popularity list, who has steadily maintained her position even though she does not seem to do much as drawing thousands of webcam site visitors.

We also see a bit of Alice’s private life outside her work. While she understandably lives apart from her mother and younger brother, Alice does not tell anything about her work to them, and her mother does not suspect much when Alice is rather vague about her job. Although she usually maintains the distance between herself and many webcam site visitors out there, Alice has closely corresponded with two of her frequent visitors, and these naughty guys are quite willing to get to see and know more of her.

Anyway, still determined to do whatever is necessary for achieving what she wants, Alice keeps trying as usual. At one point, she attempts to eat steak just for looking, uh, sexier, but she miserably fails in that attempt, and that prompts her to go further. She agrees to work with some of her colleagues for drawing more webcam site visitors together, and we come to get a kinky moment involved with a certain type of stimulation tool.

When she later checks the webcam site, Alice is perplexed to encounter something quite odd. For some unknown reason, she cannot access to her private account at all, and her private account and chatting room are now being occupied by a young woman who, to her shock and bafflement, looks exactly like her. At first, this strange happening looks like a mere technical problem, but it does not take much time for Alice to realize how serious her situation is – especially when that woman in question presents herself as Alice and then begins to do a number of things Alice has never imagined.

Naturally, Alice tries to stop this strange incident of identity theft by any means available to her, but, of course, her circumstance only gets worse to her frustration and exasperation as she helplessly watches her imposter quickly becoming a lot more popular than she ever was. The people running the webcam site do not provide any help just because she cannot access to her private account at present, and neither do two police officers, who are rather rude and condescending to her during their visit to her residence.

Now I have to be careful about describing the rest of the movie for not spoiling your entertainment, but I can tell you instead that I enjoyed how deftly the movie dials up the level of tension along its narrative. Once it succinctly establishes its story and characters, the screenplay by Isa Mazzie, which is based on the story she wrote with director Daniel Goldhaber and Isbelle Link-Levy, smoothly moves from one unnerving moment from another, and I was particularly impressed by a slick, tense long-take scene which culminates to a painfully embarrassing moment for Alice.

The movie is also anchored well by a strong performance from its lead actress. Madeline Brewer, who has been mainly known for her supporting turns in TV series “Orange Is the New Black” and “The Handmaiden’s Tale”, is terrific in her dual role, and she is especially good when Alice rises to the occasion after finally getting a clever idea on how to fight against her increasingly insidious imposter. As Brewer’s engaging performance functions as the human center of the story, we come to care about what will happen in the end, and that is why that crucial moment works with considerable dramatic impact.

The supporting performers surrounding Brewer fill their small roles as much as required. While Patch Darragh and Michael Dempsey are effectively unlikable in their respective supporting parts, Imani Hakim, Flora Diaz, Samantha Robinson, and Quei Tann are believable as Alice’s colleagues, and Melora Walters, a veteran actress whom I still remember for her heartbreaking supporting turn in “Magnolia”, has a small but nice moment when her character tries to have an honest conversation with Alice later in the story.

To be frank with you, I belatedly came to watch “Cam” only after reading a review on it yesterday, and I am happy to report to you that it is an interesting online thriller movie which deserves to be mentioned along with “Searching” (2018), another good cyber thriller film of this year. While its achievement is relatively less impressive than “Searching” in comparison, it is still a gripping genre piece on the whole, and I think you should check it out if you can access to Netflix now.

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