Seen any good freak shows lately? If not, then check out “Webcam Boys,” an uncomfortably fascinating new documentary focusing on the “stars” of gay-oriented Internet webcam sites. This uneven but intriguing film offers a line-up of weirdos who are so bizarre and outrageous that they make “The Jerry Springer Show” guests look like panelists for “The 700 Club.”
“Webcam Boys” is actually more than just an exercise in gay voyeurism. It is a clever record of online entrepreneurship, for the webcams profiled here began as a money-making scheme by ANT, a chubby comedian trying to keep his income steady between gigs. ANT recognized the popularity of Internet webcam sites and decided to produce a series of membership fee-driven gay-oriented sites featuring hunky male models (the comic disqualified himself from consideration, believing his rotund physique would not attract an Internet audience). Within a short time, he amassed a stable of oddball webcam models who allowed the cameras into their homes for the titillation of Net surfers looking for hot guys wearing as little as possible, hopefully having sex or putting on a hot solo show.
And, boy, what a line-up of characters became webcam stars! There’s Cody & Cory, incestuous half-brothers who share a passion for leather and drug usage; Dino, a balding porn actor; Pierre, a weird French cook who keeps insisting he is not Canadian; David, a former porn star who is having a feud with his next door neighbor and fellow webcam star Matt, who is a male escort by profession; and Zack, a bisexual burdened by a Dickensian childhood (complete with an absent father, crack-addict mother, a childhood in an orphanage and a girlfriend pregnant by his best pal).
“Webcam Boys” was directed by four men working under the acronym of RADD, and the surplus number of directors may explain the film’s somewhat ragged feel from sequence to sequence. Some interviews are beautifully produced and genuinely fascinating (Zack’s autobiographical soliloquy, ranging from cynicism to sorrow, is an extraordinary example of the power of documentary filmmaking). But other interviews are, quite frankly, on the dull side (most notably the stars of Real-Men.com, the less-than-studly Jeremy and Rick, who come across as benign bores). The technical aspects of the film swing wildly from scene to scene, with inadequate lighting in several set-ups that leaves the subjects in shadows and one interview that is recorded with such poor audio that subtitles are provided to translate what cannot be easily understood.
It would also seem that odd amounts of footage wound up on the cutting room floor: Pierre’s sequence is unusually brief and unsatisfactory in comparison to the others and the film’s press kit speaks intriguingly of Matt’s collection of pet mice, but the rodents never appear on camera. Unfortunately, a lengthy and thoroughly humorless sequence with the titular Webcam Boys promoting their site in a competition against several incompetent drag queens at a gay club’s version of the “Family Feud” game show stayed in the film.
However, “Webcam Boys” offers an intriguing glimpse into the mindframes of these digital exhibitionists, providing juicy clues on what makes them tick. Cody and Cory, for all of their leather tough-guy posing, express sheepishly that they won’t tell their mother where to find their web site. David’s lingering bitterness at his abusive born-again parents suggests long-standing axes that are still in the process of grinding, and his on-going feud with his neighbor Matt (each claims the other is spying via the webcams) is the ultimate in gay absurdity. Zack matter-of-factly refers to his webcam as a “means to an end” as he “puts on another show” for a distant, faceless audience. The only one who clearly enjoys rolling about on webcam for the sake of showing off is Kip, an oversexed happy-go-lucky blonde dude who came online with no special agenda and is enjoying the attention he is receiving.
“Webcam Boys,” not unlike any webcam site, is entertaining in a happily sleazy way. And in view of the high level of dues-paying membership associated with these sites, it is oddly comforting to know that at least someone is actually making money online.