Cast your mind back a couple of years, and you may recall the release of the low-budget British horror movie, Host. The film – shot and released during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – focused its story around an internet séance, and was a found footage treat from director Rob Savage.
This week, Savage returns with his latest film, the found footage horror movie, Dashcam. The film stars Annie Hardy, Amer Chadha-Patel, and Angela Enahoro, and follows the story of a young American woman who visits the UK during the pandemic, only to find herself caught up in a terrifying, supernatural situation.
In the movie, Annie is a right wing, Trump-supporting, anti-vaxxer, who lives in the US. Fed up of adhering to her country’s rules and regulations regarding masks and vaccines, she heads over to the UK to reconnect with one of her old bandmates, Stretch.
But when she arrives at Stretch’s home in London, it’s not long before she clashes with his girlfriend, Gemma. The pair have opposing views on the COVID pandemic (or the ‘COVIC’ pandemic as Annie calls it), and this creates a lot of tension in the household.
The next day, Annie accompanies Stretch on his job as a delivery driver, but her views on masks creates further problems with Stretch’s customers. And things don’t get any better that evening, when Annie overhears Gemma suggest that Stretch should ask his old friend to leave.
Frustrated and angry, Annie steals Stretch’s car and takes it for a joy ride. However, moments into the journey she receives a notification that Stretch has a delivery job to complete, and she decides to take on the job to score some free food.
When she arrives at the restaurant to pick up the food, she finds everything closed down for the night. There is no food to take away, however, the restaurant owner is very keen for Annie to take on a new job.
Rather than deliver some food, the restaurant owner wants Annie to transport an old woman to a private address in the city. Although she is initially reluctant to take on the job, the promise of money manages to sway Annie, and she is soon acting as a taxi driver to a strange woman sat in the back seat of the car.
But this is no ordinary old woman, and Annie soon finds herself partaking in a journey from Hell. Over the course of the evening, Annie encounters some supernatural phenomena, some of which is captured live on the car’s dashcam, some on her iPhone, as the whole ride descends into madness.
Now before I delve further into the pros and cons of Dashcam, in the form of this review, I do have a bit of housekeeping to attend to. This housekeeping is to tell you how you can watch Dashcam, because this has become a source of confusion in the last few days.
If you live in the US or the UK, Dashcam should be playing in select cinemas now. The film received its debut back in September 2021, when it played at the Toronto International Film Festival, but it goes on general release this week, from the 6th of June.
However, if you live in the UK, don’t expect to see this movie playing at your local Vue. Last week, Vue cinemas announced they would not be screening Dashcam, causing a little controversy in the process.
There is a bit of confusion as to why Vue isn’t screening the movie, with the initial suggestion being that Dashcam’s graphic content was to blame. However, Vue later clarified this wasn’t the case at all, and instead the cinema chain stated it had chosen not to screen Dashcam simply because it wasn’t financially viable.
So, no Vue I am afraid, and when it comes to cinema screenings in general, they are few and far between. However, if you are a Brit looking to watch Dashcam, I do have some good news.
From today, Dashcam is available to rent or buy from all major digital platforms. So, be it Amazon, iTunes, or one of the other entertainment specialists, you can access Dashcam from the comfort of your own home.
OK, so that’s the housekeeping out of the way; all that remains now is to tell you why you should or shouldn’t watch Dashcam. And this is perhaps the trickiest part, because I neither loved Dashcam, nor loathed it.
As a found footage horror film, Dashcam does some things right and it does some things wrong. Parts of it I enjoyed, and I’m sure some audiences will like too, but parts were a problem, and stopped me from becoming truly invested in it.
On the plus side, unlike most found footage movies, which spend 95% of their time teasing the audience with fake jump scares and endless scenes of nothing, Dashcam goes for the jugular early doors. The vast majority of this movie is about filling the screen with horror, and this means that after its initial set-up, the film becomes a constant conveyer belt of terror.
From demonic entities and blood-splattered death scenes, to car crash carnage and a chase through the woods, Dashcam flings a lot at the audience. It also spends time upping the ‘gross-out’ factor considerably, to ensure various bodily fluids are thrown into the mix, including poop and pee.
At times it feels as if Dashcam’s aim is not just to scare its audience, but to leave them feeling a little dirty too, and to its credit, it certainly does this. Watching the film, I didn’t always know how to feel about what I was seeing, because I was being asked to react to so many different things in such a short space of time, but I certainly felt bamboozled in the way I expect director Rob Savage intended.
So, if you are a horror fan who loves excess, Dashcam certainly gives you what you want. This film boasts various scares, is loaded with horror, and cannot be described as anything but ambitious.
But, for me, because so much is chucked at the screen, this excess and ambition is also a problem. While I admire Dashcam’s ballsy approach, the sheer number of ideas on display is all a bit too much, and by the end I found myself getting frustrated.
Unlike Savage’s previous film, Host, which had one clear idea, built around a steady, tense story, Dashcam seems to have a million and one things playing out at once. As such, there’s very little time for the audience to stop and catch its breath, and it all becomes a bit relentless.
Had the film dialled back some of its set pieces, then I believe it would be a little less hectic. The movie has so much going on that I found myself losing interest in places and after a while it all stopped feeling coherent.
None of this is to say that I didn’t appreciate all of the individual components in play – it is simply to say there is too many of them. This one film has enough ideas for half-a-dozen found footage films, so I wish it had just honed in on one.
The other problem I have with Dashcam, which I feel may be a divisive one, is its lead character, Annie, as played by Annie Hardy. As far as I am concerned, Annie is the most annoying lead character in a horror film since Heather in The Blair Witch Project (1999).
I understand that her views and personality are supposed to cause friction with the audience, and push a few buttons with characters in the story, but man, is she awful to watch. Well done for Hardy for making the character so irritating, because she sells the part well, but Annie is so unlikeable I almost wanted to switch off the film.
Again, I think this is an excess issue here. Annie is supposed to be an extreme stereotype, to fit in with everything else going on in the film, but once again, it all becomes a bit too much and if you can’t stand the lead character, who the heck are you supposed to care about?
Sure, Annie has a couple of funny lines (“fuck you, you fucking semen demon”), but for the most part she’s very abrasive. This makes it difficult to connect with her on a basic level, or even care if she lives or dies in the story.
Some may not find her difficult to watch, but I sure did. I just couldn’t warm to her, and this proved to be a significant stumbling block in terms of my overall enjoyment.
But there is enjoyment in this film. I already stated that I admire Dashcam’s ballsy approach, and I do believe the film delivers much more than most found footage films will ever attempt. Even if some of its ideas and set pieces get in the way of its story, there is a clear aim with this film to push boundaries and provide entertainment.
As a horror fan, it certainly didn’t turn me off, even if I found myself mildly disengaging from time-to-time. The film’s brief running time stops it from outstaying its welcome, and the effects are well done.
Ultimately, I believe Dashcam is fine for the most part, and I liked chunks of the film, but it has significant issues. Dashcam doesn’t know when to hold back and its lead character is difficult to like, making this neither a good film, nor a bad one.
I expect some horror fans will love the movie far more than I did, and that’s fair. With a few changes here and there it would work better for me, but as it stands its OK, just not great.
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