Woe to the poor bastards at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, forced to contend with an endless onslaught of vaguely orientalist American movies about white people going to Bangkok and getting into trouble. Joel Soisson’s Cam2Cam is but the latest and most poorly titled entry in this ever-expanding subgenre, a seedy horror-thriller about a commune of sexy young ex-pats who live off (and die on) the webcam shows they stream from a rundown tenement building in the heart of the city. Ostensibly a lame treatise on how slippery self-image can be in the Internet age, the film ultimately reveals itself as a much lamer treatise on the evil sorcery of female sexuality.
Lucy (Jade Tailor) is an American in Thailand because… Well, the reason is unimportant. All that matters is that she’s attractive, into girls, and staying in a room that’s lit for murder. After an interminable opening sequence in which she’s seduced by the creepy webcam video of a faceless young woman, and lets a charming male stranger into her apartment for protection, Lucy is promptly murdered. One month later, a brunette from Detroit (Tammin Sursok as Allie) moves into Lucy’s abandoned flat, whereupon she falls in with the local gang of hardbodied ex-pats. There’s Michael (Ben Wiggins), a chiseled Brit with steely eyes and a dark secret, and Marit (Sarah Bonrepaux, whose disproportionate charisma embarrasses the rest of the cast), a buxom French lesbian with a killer smile and a dark secret. And, lest she feel left out, Allie has a dark secret of her own—perhaps the darkest of them all!
Director Joel Soisson has been around the block, as a veteran of the horror genre who got his start producing films like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Nevertheless, despite the “2” in the film’s title, Cam2Cam is the first non-sequel he’s directed. (Previous credits include The Prophecy: Uprising, The Prophecy: Forsaken, and Children Of The Corn: Genesis). Soisson’s competent direction here neither elevates nor torpedoes the slapdash script to which he’s shackled: He certainly knows how to piece together an effectively suspenseful kill scene, even if he finds more uses for shallow-focus medium shots than Forrest Gump’s Bubba did for shrimp.
If only the film didn’t suffer from the same identity crisis as so many of its characters. The script admirably attempts to tuck pockets of paranoid horror into its thriller patchwork, but it so awkwardly pivots between the two that the crossbreeding feels more like instability than anything else. It doesn’t help that neither Allie nor her new friends are ever as interesting to listen to as they are to look it. The bushy-tailed kids only keep their clothes on to philosophize about how mutable identity has become in the digital world. (“It’s all a dream. And it’s not even your dream—it’s the dream of whomever you said you were last night.”) Bizarrely, their infrequent interactions over the Cam2Cam network never make the slightest attempt to illustrate the ideas that the film allegedly exists to explore. Allie and Marit both do their fair share of lying, but the only time anyone ever pretends to be someone else is after they’ve “hacked” another Cam2Cam user (with a hatchet).
It also doesn’t help that the film’s killer isn’t nearly as frightening as the film’s spelling. Lucy, Allie, and the rest all spell like the English language murdered their parents. It’s as if someone on this dirt-cheap production thought that buying fewer vowels would be the best way to stretch their budget. The characters are perfectly articulate in the flesh, but as soon as they slip behind their keyboards, it’s all “put yr kamra bk on” and “cmon lemme c yr butt.” Who says romance is dead?
The hilariously forced web-speak is just the most amusing example of how Cam2Cam feels outdated in its own time. Its supposedly percipient musings on modern love clash with the unshakeable feeling that the film feels like a relic unearthed from a high-school hard drive. Unfortunately, the most relevant aspect of this story—beyond its refreshingly tacit acceptance of the three lesbian co-leads—is how the film's male characters are threatened by the sexual allure of the young women around them, and how that ultimate inaccessibility drives them to madness. It’s buried beyond a chintzy mound of bullshit, but somewhere under all this foul C-grade shlock is a halfhearted rejoinder to the entitlement at the heart of the flaccid Men’s Rights movement. The film untangles how the web increases the visibility of bodies without impacting their basic rights.
Note: It’s worth mentioning that Cam2Cam.xxx is a real thing, more or less—the URL links to the ifriends.net adult webcam network. It’s a safe bet that the site is scarier, costlier, and more illuminating than anything in the film that bears its name.