Directed by Rob Savage.
Starring Annie Hardy, Amar Chadha-Patel, and Angela Enahoro.
DASHCAM follows two friends on a fucked-up horror road trip as they livestream the most terrifying night of their lives.
Last summer, filmmaker Rob Savage became an overnight sensation with his out-of-nowhere shared screen horror film Host, which was conceived, shot, and released within a mere 12-week period near the start of the pandemic.
It wasn’t long before Savage signed a deal with Blumhouse, whose financial resources have allowed him to step outside the bounds of a Zoom call for his follow-up; an elevated, breathlessly energetic horror romp clocking in at a laudably efficient 77 minutes.
Annie (played by Giant Drag musician Annie Hardy) is a deeply obnoxious livestreamer who spends her free time operating her “Band Car” channel, where she drives around free-form rapping songs from subject matter suggested by her viewers. In the middle of the pandemic, a bored Annie decides to break quarantine by flying from Los Angeles to London to stay with her former bandmate Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel).
As if Annie’s unapologetically COVID-skeptical outlook isn’t horrifying enough, a night of casual livestreaming goes suddenly awry, leaving Annie and Stretch fighting for their lives in the English countryside following a strange encounter with a sick woman, Angela (Angela Enahoro).
While unavoidably lacking Host’s perversely novel appeal – a film many watched at home while themselves in lockdown – DASHCAM is a laudable scaling-up of that film’s ambitious-yet-measured conceit. By shifting the action from Zoom to an untethered livestream, Savage opens up the world of his storytelling; in addition to the wider physical scope of Annie’s hellish odyssey, the presence of livestreamer comments scrolling down the left-hand side of the screen grounds the increasingly outlandish narrative.
Savage reportedly had roughly 5,000 user comments created for the film, many of which are hilarious – especially those that slyly comment on found footage tropes. Others are simply highly offensive as penned by Annie’s similarly trollish followers, though there’s always the sense that Savage is in on the joke with us; to depict online comment sections with any less repulsive vitriol would be patently dishonest.
Having the story be centered around a livestreamer also provides an elegant solution for all the usual “why don’t they just put the camera down?” complaints; Annie is evidently someone who relishes in exhibitionism and self-promotion. Attention-seeking, one might say?
Savage is clearly deeply interested in replicating a plausible aesthetic to boot, such that the tenaciously frenzied sprint from one chaotic scenario to the next results in an abundance of shaky and muddy camerawork. Filmed on phones for real, the disorientation often seems to be the point, using plausible obfuscation to its advantage in order to conceal clever edits and smartly integrated visual effects. This aesthetic won’t be for everyone, but it’s a trade-off which makes the story feel more lived-in.
Without getting into too much detail – because, honestly, you’re better off knowing as little as possible – DASHCAM is less an outright horror for most of its runtime than it is a savage black comedy. Revelling in gross-out moments where bodily fluids of all kinds flood the screen, Savage trades spookiness for gonzo splatter, increasingly upping the gore quotient in a film that’s ultimately more eerily unpredictable than truly terrifying.
While it certainly boasts some neat location work, ambitious set-pieces, and a number of inspired setups which payoff to ends both horrific and comedic, the feature attraction may well be Hardy herself, whose MAGA hat-wearing social media douche extraordinaire is a most unconventional protagonist for a film of this kind.
Despite the obvious challenges involved in getting the audience to root for a character so infuriating, Hardy makes an art-form out of being an asshole to ends as hilarious as they are exasperating. It’s possible that her character would be an untenable anti-hero were the film much longer, and even if you don’t find yourself cheering Annie on all the way to the finish line, Hardy’s talent is never in doubt.
DASHCAM is a bonkers splatter-fest rollercoaster ride that proves once again what can be achieved on a low budget with sufficient creativity. That Savage has been able to produce two quality films in just 18 months is extremely impressive, and it’d hardly surprise anyone if he was already cooking up another to round out the trilogy.
Oh, and be sure to stick around for a fantastically entertaining and unconventional end credits sequence which definitely shouldn’t be missed.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.