DASHCAM sees director Rob Savage return with another COVID-related horror movie. It also points out the importance of characters in found footage-esque films. Annie Hardy (playing herself) is the host of Band Car, the internet’s number one live improvised music broadcast from a moving car. When restrictions in America become too much for her to bear, Annie heads over to London. Things become much worse than mask mandates, however.
The movie takes on the look of a livestream which means the majority of the time will be spent with Annie. This is a norm of the genre and DASHCAM spends its first act introducing its main character. It is not long before she becomes very annoying. She is an always online troll who is a pandemic denier who wears a MAGA hat and scoffs at the Black Lives Matter movement.
Even those who agree with Annie’s political views will have trouble cheering for her. She is confrontational and has little tolerance for other people’s opinions. There is also the issue of whether she truly believes in anything or whether she is just being a contrarian for the increased views. The exaggerated character is obviously a commenting on a certain section of the population. Though it is never explicitly mentioned, there is also the idea of American impositions on other countries. This does not make her any easier to spend over an hour with.
Whatever the case, DASHCAM presents a lead who is not just unlikable, but insufferable. She quickly becomes annoying and spending any length of time with her is a test of patience. While it is not necessary to like the protagonist, it is important to be able to root for them. Especially in a first person story in which they are the prey. Instead, people watching will often find themselves wishing for her demise.
Making matters worse is Annie is actually a resourceful hero. The plot puts her through a variety of situations that she continues to battle her way out of. She also can be funny, though those are more due to shock value and juvenile toilet humor than anything else. Her best moments are in the clever closing credits, but these seem to be the real Annie Hardy. The character of Annie takes all of the fun out of an enjoyable horror movie.
DASHCAM as a whole is a fine addition to the resumes of Savage and co writer Gemma Hurley. There are some great scares and tension. The chaotic pace adds to the terror. There are the normal flaws of the genre – things can be too hard to see and some of the downtime goes on too long – but horror fans should get a kick out of it. The ending is abrupt, but the aforementioned end credits are laugh out loud funny.
The Toronto International Film Festival takes place virtually and in person from September 9 – September 18
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