22nd Oct2021

LFF 2021: ‘Dashcam’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Annie Hardy, Amar Chadha-Patel, Angela Enahoro, Jemma Moore | Written by Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd | Directed by Rob Savage

The filmmaking team behind lockdown hit Host return with this Blumhouse-produced follow-up, shot by the cast and crew on iPhone cameras. Amusingly provocative, fast-paced and filled with shocks and scares, it’s the epitome of a wild ride.

Sticking to the fruitful territory of horror movies set during the pandemic, Dashcam centres on Annie Hardy (real-life musician Annie Hardy, playing an exaggerated version of herself), a gleefully offensive, MAGA-loving, COVID-denying vlogger, who drives around L.A. at night hosting “Bandcar: The Internet’s Number 1 Live Improvised Music Show Broadcast from a Moving Vehicle” (Hardy’s actual show).

Fed up with America, Annie decamps to England, intending to visit her friend Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel), but her obnoxious antics quickly get her thrown out by Stretch’s girlfriend (Jemma Moore), so she steals Stretch’s car and accepts a pick-up job on his behalf. However, when the pick-up in question turns out to be a woman (Angela Enahoro as Angela) exhibiting zombie-like symptoms, things get real bad, real fast.

Casting Annie Hardy is a bold move, because her character is so relentlessly obnoxious that at times the entire film seems like an experiment to test theories about the importance of likeable central characters. In any other horror movie, Annie would be the one whose death the audience actively looks forward to, but here she’s the de facto heroine, not just the final girl, but the only girl.

However, Hardy the character may be an appalling person, but Hardy the actress has an abundance of quirky charisma (her raspy, lispy voice is a key part of her appeal), not to mention a winning way with creative swearing. She’s also frequently very funny, even if some of the things she says would put Larry David to shame. All of that gives her character an interesting complexity and you end up rooting for her despite yourself.

Savage’s direction is extremely impressive throughout, maintaining a thrillingly fast pace and packing an awful lot into the 66 minute running time (the other 11 minutes are devoted to an amusingly foul-mouthed credits sequence). In particular, Savage infuses the panic sequences with real intensity (there’s a LOT of screaming), while pulling off several world class jump scares and deploying some delightfully icky special effects moments, courtesy of FX genius Dan Martin.

The script is similarly assured, keeping the audience guessing with lots of different twists and turns and ensuring a steady stream of jet-black humour. It’s also refreshingly free from the need to explain things – Angela is far from just a zombie – but that makes total sense, as Annie has a lot more to worry about than the exact provenance of whatever is trying to kill her. It also gives her virus-denying stance a delicious extra twist.

Dashcam‘s other main gimmick is the live-streaming aspect, an off-shoot of the found footage genre that is certain to become more and more prevalent in horror circles. Here, that inspired idea allows for a near-constant stream of comments at the side of the screen, delivering amusing and sometimes savvy commentary, e.g. “I seen Blair Witch – you gonna die”. At the very least, that addition will ensure multiple viewings, because you can’t catch all the comments first time round with all the running and screaming going on.

If there’s an issue, it’s only that the film slightly (but understandably) overuses the bits where the camera is shaking so much that you can’t tell what’s going on. On the one hand, it adds to the sense of panic, but it’s also too frequently used as an easy way of getting from A to B.

That minor niggle aside, this is an absolute blast, and it confirms Savage as a real horror talent to watch. Suffice it to say that, in contrast to Host, which was designed to be watched at home, during lockdown, on your laptop, Dashcam is a film that demands to be seen with an audience, where the whole room can jump out of their collective skins together and then go for a much needed drink afterwards.

**** 4/5

Dashcam screened as part of this years London Film Festival.


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