Back in 2020, British director Rob Savage gave us one of the most memorable horror films in recent years in Host. His use of Zoom at the height of the pandemic was used to great effect when a group of friends thought it would be a good idea to hold an online seance. What Host did so well was to play on the audiences fears and reservations at the time. Covid was an unknown quantity for all of us, and the isolation we all so desperately felt was one of Host’s most defining features. That, and the fact it was shit your pants scary. Cut to two years later, and Rob Savage has delivered another slice of lockdown horror with DASHCAM. This time however, we are witness to the most insane horror film of the year so far, and a protagonist who will likely divide audiences with her MAGA hat wearing, in your face attitude.
After getting bored of life in the United States, Annie (Annie Hardy) travels to the United Kingdom to visit her old friend and bandmate Stretch (Amer Chadha-Patel). Annie lives streams from her car for a living, and raps for her viewers who give her lyrical cues in the comments section of her videos. Once Annie arrives in the UK she proceeds to invade her friends home, insult his new girlfriend, steal his car and generally attempts to ruin his life. After one falling out, Annie takes Stretch’s car and using his mobile phone, takes a call for a food delivery, he’s an Uber Eats/Deliveroo type driver, and stumbles into what seems to be an abandoned takeaway diner. After more vulgarities, Annie is confronted by woman who we believe to be the owner, and who asks Annie to deliver a very sickly woman to an address in the middle of nowhere. It’s not long before things go seriously south, and Annie is fighting for her life against an unrelenting demonic force.
DASHCAM continues to show Savage as a visually intelligent director capable of terrifying his audience. DASHCAM is a wild rollercoaster ride of a horror film. It’s slowest part is the opening 10-15 minutes where we first meet Annie, and get to know her character. Once that is established, Savage drops us into a ride that becomes more crazy the longer it lasts. As a horror film, DASHCAM can be very good. There are effective jump scares, tension and some wicked imagery. It is quick and has the feel of the 80s horror sequels that wanted to have a bit more fun than the original. Think Evil Dead II or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. There’s fun to be had here, and it works, for the most part anyway. Where DASHCAM falls down is in its portrayal of its main character Annie. Putting aside her casual racism, Covid denying and disrespect of almost any rules, she would still be a grade A prick. Her relentless attempts to be edgy become tiresome, and she has the air of someone who has never grown up. Admittedly, Annie is a fighter, as shown here, but the question will be do we want to see her die or not? Normally a horror film needs a hero to root for. A final girl, or boy, that we can get behind and will to make it to the end unscathed. Annie will, arguably, get the opposite response. In a world where we are all being asked to do better, one wonders why such a protagonist would be placed front and centre of a horror film. An argument could be made that Rob Savage wants to test his audience, and push us into questioning why we support certain types of people. But DASHCAM really doesn’t feel that clever.
The story is questionable, and several moments will leave the audience questioning certain plot points. It is also hyper-edited at times. This may be an attempt to hide the films budget, or it may just be that the director wanted us to feel as confused as the films characters as they attempt to escape the demon chasing them. In one regard DASHCAM is a good horror film that goes at a breakneck pace. But in Annie, it has a main character that is just impossible to get on with. In a recent interview with NME, the real life Annie said the following: “The character’s name is my name, but there’s some aspects and things [in the film] I would never say [in real life]. It’s a movie. But people don’t understand the whole concept of movies any more, they think this is real life. So maybe they don’t realise it’s fake.” She has a point, but one look at her Twitter account suggests that the character and the real Annie are not that far apart. Make of that what you will.
DASHCAM is released on 3 June, and 6 June on digital download.