Dashcam (2021) poster

Dashcam (2021)

Rating:


UK/USA. 2021.

Crew

Director – Rob Savage, Screenplay – Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage & Jed Shepherd, Producers – Jason Blum, Douglas Cox & Rob Savage, Visual Effects Supervisor – Steven Bray, Special Effects Supervisor – Mike Knights, Makeup/Creature Effects – Dan Martin, Production Design – Dale Slater. Production Company – Shadowhouse Films/Boo-Urns.

Cast

Annie Hardy (Herself), Amar Chadha-Patel (Stretch), Angela Enahoro (Angela), Seylan Baxter (Seylan), Jemma Moore (Gemma), Joshua Higgott (Restaurant Manager), Mogali Masuku (Angela’s Mother)


Plot

In Los Angeles, Annie Hardy livestreams a show from a camera mounted on the dashboard of her car as she drives about and free raps based on comments that her followers make. During the midst of Covid lockdown, she gets on a plane and flies to London to make a surprise visit to her old bandmate Stretch. He takes her out with him on his job as a delivery driver for online food orders but they are thrown out of a restaurant over Annie’s refusal to wear a mask. After an argument with Stretch and his girlfriend, Annie walks out and takes his car, continuing her show. She goes to pick up an order and is offered money to drive an old lady Angela to a destination. However, things proceed to go wrong as the old lady is ailing and may have incredible powers. Annie and Stretch are plunged into a nightmare journey.


British director Rob Savage came to prominence in 2020 with his second film Host (2020). This was one of the earliest films made during the Covid pandemic and took place entirely as a Zoom call where the participants conducted a séance and things started to go wrong. The film gained good word of mouth on the Shudder network and immediately had Savage snapped for a three-picture deal by Blumhouse. Dashcam was the first film to emerge from that deal.

The dashcam has been an increasingly popular device since the 2000s – a video camera that is mounted on the front dashboard of a vehicle that records everything that happens. There is plentiful commercial use of this – and a certain fad in uploading footage of accidents and incidents taken by such cameras to places like YouTube. In many countries, particularly the US, the dashcam is mandatory in police vehicles so as to record evidence of pullovers and arrests.

Dashcam is not the first film made around the dashcam concept. Indeed, there was another unrelated thriller titled Dashcam (2021), which went into release a month after Rob Savage’s Dashcam had its premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, both of these were beaten out by Albert Pyun’s Infection (2005), an alien invasion/body snatchers film that is shot entirely from the viewpoint of a dashcam in a police car.

Annie Hardy boadcasts from her car in Dashcam (2021)
Annie Hardy boadcasts from her car as the end credits roll

The disappointment of Rob Savage’s version is that it is not strictly a dashcam film. Quite a substantial portion of the film is shot from the inside of a car – although this almost entirely consists of a camera turned back looking into the car rather than facing outward to the hood, which is where most dashcams are mounted. This also alternates with a good deal of regular Found Footage camerawork where the camera is being held by various parties as they run around and are being pursued, or else a rig that is placed on Annie Hardy’s hat, giving us a point-of-view shot as she moves about. Savage also borrows from Unfriended (2014) where the film screen was supposedly a computer screen and we see connection icons and a constant stream of user comments running up from the bottom left hand corner of the screen.

That said, Dashcam is a completely mad film. The first of these is the presence of Annie Hardy, who in her day job is lead singer of the band Giant Drag. Hardy is an incredible live wire presence, randomly throwing in everything in her arsenal, managing to piss off most of the people she deals with (she wears a MAGA hat though quite a percentage of the film, for one). This is someone who is making constant freestyle raps on subjects such as anal prolapses and eating vegetables out of someone’s ass. The last ten minutes of the film where she drives about as the end credits play, riffing off the line of names that come up – including at one point about “Jason Blum/fucking his mum” – are an experience that has to be seen to be believed and possibly the most unique end credits sequence ever devised.

Dascham seems like it could be a regular film up until about the point that Angela Enahoro enters the scene around the twenty minute point. We get closeups of Annie Hardy forced to clean her up after Angela has shit herself. And then there are the scenes where Angela is left sitting in the backseat of the car where she uncannily stares directly at the camera and we see blood start to soak through the mask she is wearing, before she abruptly vanishes. We follow Amar Chadha-Patel in a blur of POV camerawork as he is running through the woods and is abruptly snatched up into a tree, all before we eerily see Angela Enahoro float down from mid-air to land on the ground. Later Annie removes her mask only to find Angela’s mouth stapled shut whereupon she starts vomiting blood everywhere and goes full-on zombie attack. Angela proves an alarming figure in her appearances, seen running behind the car as Annie drives off or levitating out of the river.

Annie Hardy with Angela (Angela Enahoro) in the backseat in Dashcam (2021)
Annie Hardy with Angela (Angela Enahoro) in the backseat

This is an insanely crazed film. It is like Rob Savage has taken a Found Footage film and wound it up to something next level. Aside from the aforementioned shit and blood, we get plentiful scenes with throats slit or torn out, even someone tearing their wrist off inside a vehicle. Rather alarmingly, Savage places his actors (or at least stunt people) inside various cars as they are involved in crashes. At one point, a car is sent plunging over the side of an embankment and into a river and Annie left swimming to get out. At another point, they collide with another vehicle and a man is thrown to be impaled through the front windshield while still alive.

One of the criticisms you can make is that this is a film entirely of effect and not one of any underlying rationale. For instance, you are not sure if Angela is possessed, infected by something or some kind of zombie. There is also the confusing scenes where Annie Hardy sees a tattoo on Angela’s stomach and they are later pursued by a shotgun-wielding woman (who is identified on the end credits as Angela’s Mother) who shows them a phone photo that reveals that Angela was in her twenties where you get the impression that whatever has affected Angela has caused rapid aging. There is also a Cult that turn up out of the blue near the end and slit their throats en masse, before Annie Hardy is pursued by a giant snake-like entity. What is going on is unclear but it is sure a mad ride.


Trailer here


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