Director: Rob Savage. With: Annie Hardy, Angela Enahoro, Amer Chadha-Patel, Mogali Masuku, James Swanton, Jemma Moore. 18.87 mins.
Here’s a nifty new hook for a horror movie – what if you had a protagonist so despicable you couldn’t help but pick on them? dash cam – of get out and The purge Blumhouse studio – features at its center a narcissistic bully in a Maga hat who, even when his life hangs in the balance, still finds the energy to spout Covid conspiracies. Despite this, they have a cockroach-like ability to survive any peril.
dash cam follows the same path as that of 1999 The Blair Witch Project, there is no doubt. You could even argue that it’s been a huge part of Rob Savage’s DNA as a filmmaker, ever since his debut in 2020. Host was about the closest replica we’ve had to this lo-fi, DIY escape in years. Host was a found footage oddity prepared for modern times, with an attempted Zoom shoot going horribly wrong. Savage has a bigger VFX budget to play here – and a sense of multi-location showmanship – but a concept not as tight or efficient, even if it replicates the camera angle found from Host and is shot entirely on iPhone. It’s a reminder that some people are often the most resourceful when faced with creative limitations.
But dash cam is always a riot. Of course, this is a film whose spell I can imagine is instantly broken the second you remove it from the very context for which it was made – in a cinema, with as large an audience as possible, all screaming and screaming – but that should hardly be counted as a mark against her. If anything, it’s proof that Savage knows exactly what kind of film he’s making. dash cam is pure chaos, headlined by a character with a maelstrom for personality. Annie Hardy, one half of Los Angeles-based music duo Giant Drag, plays Annie, an exaggerated version of herself – though to what extent isn’t entirely clear. As in real life, she is the host of a live show called Band Car, in which she improvises dirty raps while driving around the city.
To escape the Covid lockdown, Annie hops on a plane to the UK and checks in with former band member Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel). And by passing, of course, I mean breaking into his house in the middle of the night. Soon she is kicked out of the house and decides to steal Stretch’s car. When a stranger asks her to help drive an elderly woman, Angela (Angela Enahoro), to another address, she agrees only because there is money to be made. But there is something seriously wrong with Angela. And Annie only finds out when it’s far too late.
dash cam is the haunted maze, “something’s around the corner” brand of spooky, and kept light thanks to Annie’s amusing reactions to what’s happening. Even in the film’s spooky home stretch, she’s still there screaming “s**t on my dick” and “c***s in my face” over and over. But the film’s celebratory atmosphere sneaks in some interesting observations. First, there’s something to be said for a conspiratorial horror boss who immediately assumes something fishy is afoot (his guess? An “Adrenochrome Harvesting Party,” a la Pizzagate) , but does nothing about it. If Annie genuinely believed any of his outlandish theories, would she have rushed through this mess in the first place?
There’s also a second hidden narrative unfolding in his livestream comments – a snapshot of how the internet has corrupted our relationship with the truth. She’s watched exclusively by cynics who think it’s “fake as shit” when she begs for her life. The sociopaths tell her to show her breasts to a man in front of her who is on fire. Viewers end up arguing over crime statistics. At no time does anyone actually try to help her. dash cam makes a good point: when the whole world comes to you through a screen, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the difference between life and entertainment.
‘Dashcam’ is in cinemas from Friday, June 3