Dashcam (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – Two friends on a horror-fueled road trip and live stream the most terrifying night of their lives.

My Take – Though franchises like V/H/S are still trying to keep fan interest very much alive in found footage films by introducing unique visions to the storytelling aspect, the much dead in the water sub-genre actually got the much required boost with the Rob Savage directed excellent pandemic horror title Host (2020). A found footage oddity that saw a séance attempt over Zoom going horribly wrong, and keyed into contemporary anxieties with class, cleverness, and aplomb.

For his follow-up, the first one of his three film contract with Blumhouse Productions (Insidious, The Purge, The Invisible Man), we see director Savage bring yet another COVID-19 tale, but exchange Zoom-chat framing device for a Discord stream. With comments and emoji scrolling up from the bottom of the screen as a fictional audience reacts to the main content playing on screen.

While first glances initially teased yet another ingenious, captivating, and genuinely creepy experience, in a surprising turn of the events, the actual resulting film is downright terrible and just painful to watch. And a major reason for that, keeping the usual found footage pros and cons aside, is that the whole set-up is built around songwriter-vocalist-guitarist Annie Hardy, who while apparently playing an exaggerated version of herself ends up becoming the most despicable protagonist I have ever seen.

Sure, it’s a daring choice, but not necessarily a good one. While the film does start off seeming like overexcited right-wing attempt to troll leftist, it turns downright torturous when it becomes a source of spreading gross misinformation and kind off glorifies defiance against an ongoing pandemic without a point.

Making matters worse is that, despite being billed as a horror film, director Savage and co-writers Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd are far more interested in provoking with Hardy’s offensive sensibilities and cockroach ability to survive gross encounters than actually telling an engaging story or anything remotely scary.

The story follows Annie (Annie Hardy), who runs her own Band Car, a so-called Internet’s #1 live improvised music show broadcast from a moving vehicle, in which she drives around Los Angeles with a beat box, making up rhymes based on random words chosen by her many followers.

Tired by the unjust oppression of stateside COVID-19 restrictions, Annie flees to the U.K. to stay with her former band mate Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel) and his new girlfriend Gemma (Jemma Moore). Only to be soon kicked out of their house, for live-streaming herself assaulting a café owner for being a vile dictator holding civilians to suffocating mask requirements.

In further retaliation, Annie steals Stretch’s car and starts another Band Car session. However, her night turns wilder when she accepts one of Stretch’s food delivery orders on his behalf, and finds herself agreeing to drop off a sickly woman named Angela (Angela Enahoro), at a random address in exchange of cash. But something is really wrong with Angela, and pretty soon she’s exhibiting strange supernatural abilities threatening everyone and everything.

Though the film borrows heavily from other found footage films it picks on everything wrong. Even the most basic found footage question of how the camera is rolling at all time is simply ignored here. But nothing can salvage the film from its highly unlikable protagonist.

While director Savage melds the conventions of found-footage horror and live-streaming effectively, the screenplay does itself no favors by being focused on Annie’s grating rants and not the horror tale’s ambiguous plot lines that are only mildly explored.

Most of her annoying songs are just dissing tracks full of curse words, scatological humor, and raunchy references to genitals. She’s a provocateur whose callous wisecracks target COVID-19 panic, Black Lives Matter, and the Me Too movement.

At first, Annie seems a crude caricature of those Donald Trump followers, as she smugly makes a scene without caring about the consequences of her actions and gleefully mocks any who are upset by her antics.

But she also has no motivation or even curiosity that would urge her to explore the mysterious evil that derails her journey. She just crashes into one situation after another, making for an episodic string of violent encounters.

Plus, devoid of atmosphere, the horror too never catches on and the film’s jump scares grow tedious quickly. What works to an extent, however, is the found-footage trickery. In comparison to his earlier film, the visual effects are genuinely impressive given the obvious practical limitations. At their best, these sequences are delirious and nerve-jangling.

Despite being termed as an exaggerated version, an angle that has been rendered void by public records, Annie Hardy is incapable of commanding immoral charm or vulgar wits. While Amar Chadha Patel, Angela Enahoro, Jemma Moore and Mogali Masuku try to salvage as much as they can. On the whole, ‘Dashcam’ is an unendurable pandemic-set horror flick that is both annoying and grating to watch.

Directed –

Starring – Annie Hardy, Amar Chadha-Patel, Angela Enahoro

Rating – R

Run Time – 87 minutes

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