Not surprisingly, DASHCAM arrives with plenty of buzz. For starters, it’s Rob Savage’s follow-up to the breakout horror movie of 2020, Host. And Savage once again mixes technology and our pandemic setting. That alone makes DASHCAM a must see horror movie for 2022. Recently, news broke that some theater chains were cancelling screenings of the movie due to its content. True or not, a horror director can’t buy that kind of publicity. As compared to Host, however, DASHCAM is proving to be a bit more divisive among audiences and critics.
As COVID-19 locks down the world, conspiracy theorist and livestreaming improv musician Annie leaves Los Angeles to re-connect with a former bandmate in London. When she doesn’t get the welcome she was anticipating, Annie steals her friend’s car to mess around with his food delivery gig. At her first dropoff, the restaurant owner convinces her to give s visibly ill woman a ride. It’s a decision that sets Annie on a nightmarish car ride.
DASHCAM a Manic and Often Incoherent Effort
DASHCAM finds writer and director Rob Savage back in familiar territory. Like Host, Savage and co-writers Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd once again use technology to spin a COVID-19 set horror movie. But there’s no Zoom this time around. Here, DASHCAM mixes iPhone camera and dashcam footage for a livestreamed movie that unfolds in real time. On the plus side, Savage paces things every bit as fast as the livestream conceit allows. In addition to a handful of creepy moments lingering in the background, there’s a manic energy and inventiveness to the gore. But DASHCAM dials up the shaky cam to ridiculous levels. As a result, audiences may struggle to make head or tails about what’s actually happening. Often incoherent and repetitive, DASHCAM is also frequently missing much in the way of actual scares.
In addition to a handful of creepy moments lingering in the background, there’s a manic energy and inventiveness to the gore.
What’s missing from DASHCAM is any sense of purpose to the onscreen mayhem. On one hand, there’s no clear narrative that ties the movie’s events together. Though the sick Angela’s presence initially hints that Savage et al intended to tell a pandemic horror story, it never amounts to much more than an excuse to have bad things happen. No, horror movies don’t need exhaustive exposition. But DASHCAM lacks a story – it feels like a 77 minute TikTok video. Moreover, it has nothing to say about its character’s politics or conspiracy theories or even COVID-19 itself. Like is violence and gore, DASHCAM trades in on it vulgar protagonist for pure shock value.
DASHCAM Forces You to Ride-Along With Horror’s Most Unlikable Protagonist in Recent Memory
Horror movies are often filled with unlikeable characters. Take slasher movies as an example. Much of the fun of the subgenre involves watching unsavory individuals meet a justifiably grisly end. And horror anthologies often work as modern dark fairy tales wherein immoral characters get their comeuppance. Here, Savage understood the first part of the assignment. By and large, musician Annie Hardy is DASHCAM – other characters come and go. Only Amar Chadha-Patel’s ‘Stretch’ gets any extended screen time. And Hardy plays what’s hopefully a fictional version of herself. She’s an alt-right, MAGA-hat wearing, anti-vaxxer. And her schtick involves driving around with a mounted phone camera spinning off improvised raps based on comments from her fanbase for her online show Band Car.
And Hardy plays what’s hopefully a fictional version of herself. She’s an alt-right, MAGA-hat wearing, anti-vaxxer.
Before the horror gets going, Hardy spends her time signaling just how non-conformist she is. Like getting kicked out of a restaurant for not wearing a mask. Simply put, Hardy is the kind of character most horror fans can’t wait to see get what she has coming. But that’s not what happens. DASHCAM didn’t understand the assignment. Instead, Savage turns Hardy into an indestructible force stumbling from one horrific scenario to the next. In fact, the only characters on screen worse than Hardy are her fans continuously commenting in the corner of the screen. With no redeemable characters with whom to identify, DASHCAM is often tedious as well as rudderless.
Dashcam a Major Misstep for Its Director
Inventive and genuinely scary, Host was one of the best horror movies of 2020. And it holds up to repeat viewings. Unfortunately, DASHCAM isn’t just a step backwards for Rob Savage – it’s a nearly unwatchable movie. Even if you can look past its grating protagonist for the 77 minutes she’s on screen, DASHCAM is a chaotic – often incoherent – spectacle lacking much in the way of a narrative to hold everything together. Yes, it’s occasionally provocative and there’s some gleeful enthusiasm with its gore. But Savage’s frenetic shaky cam makes it difficult to follow what’s happening for any significant duration.