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MOVIES: Cam - Review [Fantasia 2018]

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Making its world premiere at the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival, Daniel Goldhaber and Isa Mazzei’s Cam tells the story of Alice Ackerman (The Handmaid's Tale actress Madeline Brewer), a webcam model whose viewers know her only as "Lola," and who broadcasts from a bedroom studio lined with pink curtains and stuffed animals - a stark contrast to the frequent nudity and the grisly fake suicides that have garnered her online persona a legion of fans.

Obsessed with moving up in the ranks and becoming one of the web's most celebrated camgirls, Alice continues to push the boundaries of what she's willing to do in order to gain more viewers. But after an exhausting dual session with another local model, Alice wakes up the following day to discover that she's been locked out of her account. At first, she suspects a rival model is behind the trouble, but grows even more alarmed when she realizes that someone is broadcasting from her account, and that someone looks and sounds exactly like her.

Playing out like an extended Black Mirror episode, Cam follows Alice down the rabbit hold of madness as she tries to make heads or tails of what's happening. Her family can't help, because they have no idea what Alice does for a living, and the handful of models that she socializes with think Alice is just pulling some kind of elaborate prank. Things become even more terrifying when the new Lola convinces a pair of her biggest fans that she might be open to an in-person encounter, and her run-ins with awkward, obsessive "Tinker" (Patrick Darragh) and sleazy, entitled "Barney" (Michael Dempsey) are harrowing in their creepiness.

There's more than a little David Lynch influence at play here, but Goldhaber handles the material expertly, as evidenced by his award for Best First Feature at Fantasia 2018 (not to be outdone, Isa Mazzei's screenplay also received honors). Cam's ambiguous resolution leaves something to be desired, and it falls short of providing a satisfactory answer to the origin of Alice's doppelgänger, but the film makes up for these shortcomings by crafting a wonderfully unsettling atmosphere or paranoia and confusion, anchored by a bang-up performance from Brewer.

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