[Panic Fest 2022 Review] 'Dashcam' is a Wild Collision of Jump-Out-of-Your-Seat Scares and Gross-Out Humor
In 2020, director Rob Savage unleashed what has quickly become known as one of the scariest horror films in the last decade, Host…
…Now, Savage is back with a new found footage terror in Dashcam, which just premiered at Panic Fest 2022 and once again threatens to tear your nerves apart, as well as your patience.
Written by Savage, along with Host co-writers Jed Shepherd and Gemma Hurley, Dashcam is also set during the early days of Covid and centers around Annie Hardy (playing herself), an obnoxious vlogger with a channel dubbed “BandCar”, in which Annie drives around and drops beats about whatever she encounters. After traveling to the UK to stay with ex-bandmate Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel) and his “libtard” girlfriend, Gemma (Jemma Moore)—Annie’s words, not mine—the inevitable disagreement ensues and Annie steals Stretch’s car. It’s just another day in the life for Annie, until a chance encounter leads her to agreeing to transport a sick woman named Angela (Angela Enahoro), who has a lot more wrong with her than first appears.
I want to preface this with the fact that I’m talking about the character and not the real-life person—who also does a Vlog called BandCar—but when I say Dashcam is going to test your patience, I’m referring to its groan-inducing center of attention, Annie. A loud, rude anti-masker sporting a “Make America Great Again” hat, she’s like a far-right Power Puff Girl on a Jagerbomb binge and bursting with an endless “Karen” energy. Annie is the human equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. If you’re not screaming while watching Dashcam, you’re pulling your hair out and wishing she would spontaneously combust as we watch her scream about having to put a mask on at a café, insult every person she meets, all while having the audacity to say “I’m actually a really good person”.
The hell you are, Annie!
Now, this is all intentional, of course. You’re not exactly supposed to like Annie (at least I don’t think you are), and film should never be watched through a lens of asking characters to identify with your politics. That’s boring. To Hardy’s credit—the actress, not the character—she is definitely not dull. The energy she brings may be…a lot…but I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t entertaining, delivering just as many laughs as eye-rolls (as long as you’re into butt jokes and lines like “Benjamin Button Vagina”. God help you if not). Hardy has an exceptional knack for comedic timing. It all just becomes a question of whether or not Dashcam’s humor is for you.
Love her or hate her, Annie is a force that matches well with the absolute insanity of Dashcam.
Savage’s latest is a shot of adrenaline pounded straight into the heart. Once Annie has accepted cash to transport sickly Angela—she aint doing this out of the kindness of her heart--Dashcam becomes like A Series of Unfortunate Events, a continuous escalation of WTF that never slows down and pushes the capabilities of the Found Footage genre to its limits. Dashcam straps a brick to the gas pedal and simply cannot be stopped as it rams through an array of creepy settings such as the sewers and an abandoned carnival. A trunk full of jump scares come screeching out throughout the film like banshees, with things—and people—flying in and out of view, limbs getting ripped off and eruptions of chaos screaming from every direction. This film is full of that frantic terror where the audience is just as confused and disoriented as the characters with so much going on at once and hardly a moment to breathe.
Needless to say, Dashcam has zero chill.
In the face of all of the above, Annie still finds a way to be the absolute worst, which lessens the effectiveness of the scares. Horror is most powerful when we care about the characters, but in Annie’s case, the terrifying events which occur in Dashcam couldn’t be happening to a more deserving person. A heavy dose of disorienting camerawork amidst the pandemonium also may leave some viewers running on fumes. There is such a thing as “too much”, and the sensory overload that is Dashcam has a numbing effect at times, made more so by a busy screen containing an endless stream of comments from Annie’s viewers. Savage is a scare magician though and uses the sometimes hilarious commentating to draw the eye away from scares being set up in the background.
The teeth-gritting personality of Dashcam’s “heroine” will push some viewers to the very edge of their tolerance, but if you can get past that, Savage’s film is a wild collision of jump out of your seat scares and gross-out humor sure to test the gag reflex of viewers. Dashcam lacks depth, with a vague premise in need of extra gas, but it’s such a bonkers ride that you’ll be having too good of a time to notice the occasional speed bump.
Dashcam comes to VOD June 3rd from Blumhouse.
By Matt Konopka