Directed by Rob Savage.
Starring Annie Hardy, Amar Chadha-Patel, Angela Enahoro.
Horror, UK, 77minutes, certificate 18.
Released in the UK in cinemas and On Demand June 3rd by eOne
COVID threw a spanner in the works for many a filmmaker. Delayed release dates, productions grinding to a halt and studios scrambling to come up with guidelines to ensure a safe set soon became the new norm. Now over two years since the pandemic flared up, we seem to be getting back to normal and caught up with everything that was held back. Director Rob Savage and his co-writers Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd however have made their careers with the pandemic, taking the limitations of lockdown to produce the striking found footage hit HOST, a film that nicely encapsulated the fear, doubt and frustration many felt at the time by expertly telling its story through possibly the most disastrous Zoom meeting ever recorded.
Now nearly two years since HOST hit our home screens, they make a quick return with DASHCAM. After a festival run that seemed to divide critics this creative team not only prove that there is still life in the found footage genre thanks to their innovative creativity but by also injecting the story here with a truly anarchic lead performance that perfectly matches the films no hold barred approach to telling another tale of supernatural madness during lockdown.
Telling its story through a Periscope style app, where someone livestreams and viewers comment throughout the broadcast, we meet Annie, host of Bandcar, where she takes suggestions from her audience and improvises foul mouthed songs. More often than not though she also uses the platform to shout out her right-wing viewpoints and various conspiracy theories about the “plandemic.” Frustrated with the restrictions of her hometown she dons her Make America Great Again cap and jets off to London to see her old bandmate Stretch, mistakenly believing that life will be much easier going over here and her old friend will welcome her unannounced visit with open arms.
Distressed at the reality of the country’s more stringent lockdown rules and Stretch’s settled homelife, not to mention his furious girlfriend, Annie decides enough is enough and steals his car, which is also his main source of income due to his Uber job. Annie is then forced into giving a lift to the elderly Angela, a woman whose non-communicative manner soon gives way to something terrifying and inexplicable, all captured on Annie’s mobile phone to the confusion and delight of her loyal online following.
It is hard to remember such a hateful character onscreen as Annie is presented here. A heightened version of the woman who plays her, also an antivaxxer in real life, she lends the film much of its chaotic edge. Even before the film delves into its horror elements there is a tension that emanates from this jumpy and enraging woman who seems to delight in offending and winding up absolutely everyone, she crosses paths with. It is a confrontational tactic that will either send viewers away in disgust and anger at her toxic viewpoints and reprehensible behaviour towards her friends. However, it is also a neat highwire act that for those who stick with it get to see a challenging horror film that nicely captures the divisive spirit of the times we live in and also delivers an expertly delivered slice of gory chaos. This is like the found footage equivalent of Sam Raimi being given a proper budget for EVIL DEAD 2 and being told he can do whatever he wants.
Wielding a karaoke mic, with distortion effects, at the madness she encounters, Annie Hardy could go onto be one of the most fascinating protagonists in horror cinema of this age. Twisted, cruel and deranged as the events that she causes wherever she goes she, along with the expertly revealed storyline from Hurley and Shepherd, as well as Savage’s direction delivering the action in a clear manner despite its grimy digital photography make DASHCAM one of the most energising films of the year. Fans of HOST will be delighted with the sly allusions made to the events and characters of that film while also being treated to a belter of a follow up from its creative team. After HOST one wondered how they would follow it up. Where they go from here seems even more exciting now after upping the stakes with this entertainingly challenging snapshot of the fictional and all too real madness of the 2020’s.