Judging by its trailers and early reviews, Cam (released on Friday, Nov. 16) is a horror film so thrilling and entertaining that Netflix was right to place trailers for it in actual theaters. But is the film — which focuses on a cam girl's life turned upside down in the creepiest way — worth streaming now?
It seems the answer is fully based around your expectations. If you’re looking to be thrilled by a wild concept that feels like someone mixed Black Mirror and Hitchcock, you’ll be happy. But be warned that critics consistently griped that the film doesn’t stick the ending.
The Hollywood Reporter
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In his review at The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Dalton praises Madeline Brewer’s performance, but prepares you for a less-than-stellar ending.
“Cam boasts some high-caliber technical touches, particularly Daniel Garber's nervy, propulsive editing and Emma Rose Mead's minutely detailed production design.” — Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter
"Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid's Tale) gives a solid, nuanced leade performance as Alice, an ambitious twentysomething who makes a handsome but clandestine living by performing softcore sex acts via a private live-streaming channel under the alias 'Lola.'"
"Making resourceful use of its obviously modest budget, Cam boasts some high-caliber technical touches, particularly Daniel Garber's nervy, propulsive editing and Emma Rose Mead's minutely detailed production design."
"The plot plays like an episode of the techno-Gothic show Black Mirror at times, but it draws on primal fears reaching back through centuries of folklore, psychology and popular culture, from Dostoevsky to Freud to Hitchcock."
"Mazzei's screenplay hints all all these intriguing tangents but never quite settles on a satisfactory explanation."
David Ehrlich’s entirely-positive review at IndieWire points out how Cam is able to avoid making the same mistakes that Black Mirror often falls into.
"Goldhaber’s steady hand ensures that things are rivetingly queasy from start to finish, and Brewer’s performance is powerful enough to flip the script on the entire cam experience." — David Ehrlich, IndieWire
"Cam also touches on a number of other digital crises (e.g. the way in which the internet’s short attention span requires people to constantly reaffirm their own existence), but this clever and unnerving … movie is at its most effective when tracing the uneasy shadow relationships we share with our online personas."
"Even when the story becomes tinged by the supernatural, the film remains grounded and mundane enough to avoid sinking into the stuff of finger-wagging parable — it avoids the Black Mirror effect by keeping things real, or at least real enough."
"Goldhaber’s steady hand ensures that things are rivetingly queasy from start to finish, and Brewer’s performance is powerful enough to flip the script on the entire cam experience."
The New Yorker
In a brief review at The New Yorker, Richard Brody praises the achievements of Cam, but calls its ending predictable.
"The drama is thin and predictable; despite the quasi-documentary authenticity of the details of Alice’s work," — Richard Brody, The New Yorker
"This remarkably accomplished thriller, by Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber (she wrote, he directed), depicts a crisis in the life and work of a cam girl."
"The realization of her life online, as she interacts with a profusion of screens and windows, is extraordinarily complex and detailed."
"The drama is thin and predictable; despite the quasi-documentary authenticity of the details of Alice’s work, the movie offers more prowess than perspective."
The AV Club
At The AV Club, Katie Rife gives praise by drawing major comparisons, and is one of the critics to note that Cam fails in its follow-through.
"Cam is a rather brilliant contemporary take on the Hitchcockian identity thriller, a feminist update on David Lynch and Brian De Palma," — Katie Rife, The AV Club
"Cam is a rather brilliant contemporary take on the Hitchcockian identity thriller, a feminist update on David Lynch and Brian De Palma by way of Unfriended. (Director Daniel Goldhaber’s nigh-fetishistic use of neon lighting and heavy curtains enhances the De Palma vibe.)"
"Alice’s materialism and ambition initially give it shades of a morality tale, but Brewer’s intensely vulnerable performance, particularly in a harrowing scene where she watches her double stage a fake suicide on camera, puts the audience’s sympathy squarely with her."
"Picking up and discarding plot threads at will, the script doesn’t always live up to the promise of its concept."
In a review for RogerEbert.com, Nick Allen writes about how he enjoyed the film's intensity, and how he wanted there to be more ideas in the script.
"It’s the character development in this case that makes the story’s turn of events most intriguing, as we see different shades of men who choose what they want to believe about what she has to say," — Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com
"Cam is a gripping nightmare inspired by something not so much as incomprehensible but quietly disturbing, bringing a lot of questions into fray."
"It’s the character development in this case that makes the story’s turn of events most intriguing, as we see different shades of men who choose what they want to believe about what she has to say, while not having their own boundaries when interacting with her as Alice, not Lola."
"But like how Black Mirror episodes can sometimes focus on one idea with a few discussion topics along the way, so does Cam feel a bit thin with its story. It makes for repeated beats, like when Alice is constantly disturbed by the image of her that others are seeing, while people don’t believe her."