At the same time, Cam is not a moralizing documentary and it's not purely a sociological look at a risky corner of the internet. From its opening scene, which finds Alex performing for her followers and breaking into the "top 50" on FGL by staging a fake throat-slitting, the film has a mischievous and intense tone. Almost 30 minutes pass before the mystery angle to the story is introduced, but Goldhaber and Mazzei do an effective job of immersing the viewer in the minutia of Alice's life: We see her blocking annoying users, holding private (and awkward) video chats with top tier patrons, and hiding her job from her mother (Melora Walters) and her younger brother (Devin Druid). As any piece of reporting on an influencer will tell you, logging off is a serious financial danger.
The movie's shift from economic horror to a more De Palma-like dissection of identity is elegant and doesn't rob the story of any momentum. After a particularly eventful night at a "cam house," where she performed with another girl and improved her site ranking, Alice wakes up and discovers she's been locked out of her account. First, she thinks the app is malfunctioning by playing an old video she made, but something more sinister is afoot: A woman who looks just like her has taken control of her feed, stealing her tokens, and she's breaking all of Alice's rules. (She doesn't tell her guys she loves them, she doesn't do public shows, and she never tells a customer where she lives.) As a twist, it's creepy, but as a metaphor for feeling alienated from your own online persona, it's even more potent.