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One Movie Punch

Nov 29, 2018

Hi everyone!

Welcome back to the podcast. This will be the second of two episodes today as we’re working to get caught up from the fire. I’ll be continuing my story from the wildfire evacuation in a minute, but if you haven’t heard the earlier segments, hit pause, then go back to my review for “Outlaw King” (Episode #314) for the first segment, then listen every episode after that for another installment. Let me know you’re listening by sharing this episode with #WelcomeBackOMP. 

Last segment, we were getting ready to send our daughter back to school while my spouse would stay home for the day to recover. We had a few things to take care of that morning, and I actually had a therapy appointment. You can imagine what that was like. So, anything happen this past month that might cause anxiety or depression? Well, now that you mention it... It was a good session, with me working through the latent stress of evacuation, along with the usual concerns, but suddenly my phone buzzed, then buzzed again. I checked my texts, and there was a new alert that a flare up had occurred at Boney Mountain, just a few miles from our home. No orders to evacuate, but my daughter was texting from school, and my wife was responding on the group text. I was facing a window in the direction of the flare up, and watching a new plume slowly rise up into the air as we finished therapy. I think I was less stressed overall at the end, but another potential evacuation kind of kills that.

No folks to thank this episode, but if you like what you are hearing with these stories, let me know. I’ve been having a great deal of fun making them, and even if they’ve been a bit rough, I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

On to the review!

Today’s movie is “CAM” (2018), the Netflix Original thriller directed by Daniel Goldhaber, and written for the screen by Isa Mazzei, based on a story in collaboration with Daniel Goldhaber and Isabelle Link-Levy. The film follows Alice (Madeline Brewer), a young woman who stars as a cam girl named Lola, and desperately wants to climb the ranks. After one intense session at a cam house, she finds herself locked out of her account, and a doppelganger live streaming in her place.

Spoilers ahead.

When I first saw this film trailer, my first thought was to pass. I have never personally understood the appeal of the cam phenomenon, even if I could understand why it would appeal to other people. I knew it existed, but aside from its tame usage in “Searching” (Episode #246), and its more expanded usage in last season of “Riverdale”, I’ve never really cared to learn more about it. Part of that is not wanting to feel like some of the cam fans portrayed in this film, mostly middle-aged white dudes with hella creepy personalities, but also because I was raised in a time where sex work as a whole was shunned, a social expression of the whole virgin/whore complex women still face. Those foundational values were upset later by third-wave feminism, seeking to reclaim power over sexual autonomy and against ideas like slut-shaming, kink-shaming and sex worker victim blaming. And then I saw the reviews pouring in, and realized I needed to learn a great deal more about it, because it was clear I misunderstood at least parts of this sub-culture. 

Kink-shaming has changed a lot since I grew up around those aforementioned conservative values. Sexual activity that parent groups protested in my childhood are commonplace topics in today’s sitcoms and dramedies. Sure, you can find the thought of middle-aged men paying young women to perform remotely personally disgusting, or something that you would never consider doing, but that doesn’t mean the act is categorically wrong. In many cases, the folks who kink-shame the loudest are often repressing their own sexual proclivities. Cam girls and cam boys are really just a digital version of the strip club, but it has its own rules and sense of community. Isa Mazzei bring her actual experiences as a cam girl to developing this story, touching on the process of camming, the competition among cam girls, the rewards of being a cam girl, and most importantly, the risks, not just to physical safety, but also to social reputation.

Now, how to tell this as a horror film? Well, you add a little weird supernatural element, where the cam personality somewhere on the Internet has seized the account for itself, much like how cam personalities can overshadow a person’s pre-cam or non-cam personality. Madeline Brewer does first balancing both worlds, then dealing with the aftermath when they collapse into one another extremely well. Daniel Goldhaber does a great job with composition, part screenlife, part stage set, and part real life, capturing the addictive nature of cam fans and cam personalities. It is uncomfortable to watch, but also impossible to look away.

“CAM” (2018) is a smart, insightful look into the cam world via a horror story about stolen identity. Madeline Brewer brings the fictionalized experiences of Isa Mazzei’s cam days to life, under the smart direction of Daniel Goldhaber. Horror fans, or folks who want to learn more about the cam industry, should definitely check out this film, but be ready for a great deal of graphic content.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (CERTIFIED FRESH)

Metacritic: 70

One Movie Punch: 9.2/10

“CAM” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix and playing in select theaters.