Found footage is going through quite a resurgence these days. Much has changed since The Blair Witch Project smashed box office gross records and became a household name in 1999.
Technology being the most significant change over the decades which can explain why found footage is taking this new turn. We all carry live-streaming devices in our pockets and watch other people’s antics through these small screens. A constant connection, yet ironically disconnected also.
In 2021, the average American spent 4.1 hours a day on their smart phones according to mobile analytics firm App Annie. It only feels natural to set a horror story around the premise of a live video feed, which we see in Dashcam.
That technology element is a big part of what led to the 2020 smash hit Host and the follow up for that filmmaking team, Dashcam. The team being Rob Savage as Director and Writer, along with Jed Shepherd and Gemma Hurley as writers. All three being executive producers as well.
Dashcam follows Annie Hardy, performed by Annie Hardy, who is the host of Band Car, a live-streaming show where she drives around and freestyle raps. Things take a horrifying turn for Annie and her friend Stretch, played by Amar Chadha-Patel (“Doom: Annihilation”, “Aladdin 2019”) when they give a stranger a ride.
I had the pleasure of seeing this movie screen with a live Q and A with the director/writer Rob Savage and actor Annie Hardy afterword. Paraphrased versions of their answers will come at the end of this review.
Dashcam is a crazy, manic journey into the heart of horror. Mainly, the unknown. Chilling genre beats cut against moments of levity, and Annie can be the kind of character you love to hate. She is a loud-mouthed, MAGA hat wearing anti-masker with no filter.
The chemistry between Annie and her friend Stretch is believable and often a source of humor. Much like the movie Host, the thrills, stunts and set pieces escalate over the run time.
I was impressed with how much larger the scope of Dashcam was compared with Host. Dashcam is a free-wheeling ride with many pit stops along the way including an abandoned carnival, while Host was a contained story between a few friends during the pandemic lockdown.
There is absolutely re-watch potential for Dashcam, as part of the screen shows a text thread of comments from people watching the live feed. Many of these comments that I did read were funny counter-points or references to what was happening on screen. Many people from the production gave input that led to these comments and helped make each user feel like a unique person.
If I had to compare Dashcam to any other movie it would be Spree, but Dashcam has a very different tone. This movie fully embraces horror and the supernatural. Annie’s persona and political views add a layer that reflects our times whether the viewer agrees with her or not.
Much has been said about hating the character of Annie and finding her annoying. To that I say, she was annoying at times and that was the point. There are people like Annie in this world, who is to say she can’t be the star of her own story? People seem to be even more outspoken and on edge during the Covid-19 pandemic, which the movie shows. Dashcam was filmed during the second lockdown in the UK so all of these themes feel apt.
Any fan of 60’s and 70’s cinema know that you do not need to like the protagonist to want to take the ride. Straw Dogs, Dirty Harry and The Pawnbroker are just a few examples and there are countless more when you consider contemporary indie movies.
This leads to some of the questions in the Q and A. These answers are not direct quotes. I asked Rob Savage “This delivered the thrills, but in many ways it was a departure from Host. What things did you and the writers consider since this was a follow up to Host?” Rob’s reply was that they started making Dashcam right after Host, they wanted to do something different by following an eccentric character like Annie within a horror movie. They hope people will want to watch this filmmaking team make movies within other sub-genres of horror.
In that case, they absolutely succeeded I thought. Dashcam is meant for the unflinching horror fans out there. Parts are meant to be crude and disturbing, as people and life can be. If you focus on telling a story that does not provoke viewers, you run the risk of not entertaining anyone.
I asked Annie Hardy “Do you share the political views of the character, how much of this is you?” Annie Hardy plays a version of herself in Dashcam, she hosts the show Band Car in her real life, which was part of the genesis of the movie. She is also the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for the indie rock band Giant Drag. Annie’s answer was a sprawling view that illustrated, even though we are in a complex and divisive world, she is not a political person. She believes in the politics of Love, she said.
For Horror fans especially those who like found footage, I recommend you see Dashcam. If you have not seen Host yet, watch that first, but definitely take both movies for a spin. Dashcam was released in theaters and VOD in the US and UK on June 3rd.
3rd June 2022
1 Hour 17 Minutes
THE QUICK SELL
Review of the found footage horror movie Dashcam. This is a Blumhouse production from Director Rob Savage, written by Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd and Gemma Hurley.