1.5

Unwatchable Horror Dashcam Finds Damning Footage of Edgelord Incompetence

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Unwatchable Horror <i>Dashcam</i> Finds Damning Footage of Edgelord Incompetence

Rob Savage’s Dashcam is the equivalent of strapping a GoPro to a Republican edgelord’s dirty diaper and throwing it into a blender. Whatever goodwill the Host creative team earned (Savage co-writes with Jed Shepherd and Gemma Hurley) is vaporized by a “Screen Life” embarrassment that mistakes obnoxious propaganda for hard-stance exploitation. What might have at one point been conceived as a heckling right-wing attempt to troll leftists becomes a legitimately hazardous form of misinformation smuggled as a nonsensical horror flick that learns nothing from decades of found footage mistakes. Its thematic defiance against an ongoing pandemic is disgusting without a point, which is the pinnacle of lazy, thoughtless screenwriting that exists to outrage because…well, because.

Annie Hardy plays an “exaggerated” take on herself in Dashcam. This movie’s Annie Hardy is an American who flees the unjust oppression of stateside COVID-19 restrictions to visit her ex-bandmate Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel) in the U.K. After Stretch’s partner Gemma (Jemma Moore) kicks Annie out because she livestreams herself assaulting a café owner for being a vile dictator holding civilians to suffocating mask requirements, the visitor steals Stretch’s car and starts another “BandCar” session. It’s her show where she raps vulgar rhetoric on request while she smokes and whatnot, but the night turns wilder when she accepts one of Stretch’s food delivery orders on his behalf—and instead picks up a sickly woman (Angela Enahoro’s Angela) who must be taken to a random address for a cash trade.

Let’s pretend Dashcam isn’t Savage blowing his first Blumhouse budget on Hardy’s Trumpist COVID-19 disinformation agenda. Taken at face value as an evolution of livestreaming horrors like Spree or Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, it’s abhorrently composed outside a few thrilling glimpses of gore that escape its incomprehensible stuck-in-a-cement-mixer cinematography. Dashcam becomes a chase once Angela flees Annie’s car: A superpowered Angela tails Annie and Stretch through woods, amusement parks and down roadways as Annie’s phone shakes uncontrollably. Bafflingly, the camera keeps “streaming” even when Annie loses signal…which makes zero technological sense because how are we watching Annie when her device isn’t connected to service? The most basic found footage question (“How/why is the camera rolling at all times?”) is simply ignored by Savage. But it’s not like the screenplay does itself any favors throughout, since every writer’s focus seems obsessed with Annie’s grating rants and not the horror tale’s ambiguous plotlines that are nearly afterthoughts.

Although, Dashcam isn’t Savage acting as a provocateur who dares audiences to sympathize with the “fictitious” version of Annie Hardy we meet. You can find variations (and repetitions) of what Annie’s character spews on Hardy’s real social media or Hardy’s real podcast, Empath of Least Resistance. There’s no clear delineation between Hardy, actress and musician, and Annie, the on-screen toxic spreader of misinformation in her red MAGA hat. Savage never wants to confront his character’s tasteless and tactless behaviors because there isn’t a lick of satire or spoof in the screenplay. Savage mocks anyone who lost someone to COVID by giving Annie a repugnantly one-sided platform and bears no responsibility for its dialogue, torn from your least-favorite Floridian aunt’s Facebook posts.

Dashcam’s creators will probably hide behind the argument that unlikable protagonists aren’t endorsements or how filmmakers can’t challenge audiences these days, but that angle is rendered void by Hardy’s public records. Even worse, her deplorable character is incapable of commanding immoral charm or vulgar wits. Everything about Dashcam is the lowest hanging fruit of putrid truth-seeker farces, stale found footage scares, or wretched shitposter wits. It’s cluelessly inept even as exploitation that exists only to infuriate its intended enemies, because the writing team misses the point of exploitation cinema as a medium for protest in any form. Dashcam packs the thematic punch of a kindergartner mooning their teacher, like Savage’s crew seems proud they’ve hoodwinked horror audiences. Whatever story they’re trying to tell—somebody watched the V/H/S/2 segment “Safe Haven” recently—is lost in the brainless-at-best, pointlessly underdeveloped notion that a livestream horror story can have blanks that we’ll fill in ourselves.

Here’s the big question: Why should we sympathize with a character who has no pushback on her ideals, misdeeds and bad-faith activism? That’s the dumbfounding incompleteness of Dashcam. Savage demands we approach Annie’s—I’ll play ball—”alternative opinions” with compassion when the script doesn’t even care to tie its eventual supernatural horrors to Annie’s previous actions. After Annie forces her maskless tantrums on Gemma or berates a restaurant owner for his simple request to mask up indoors, there’s no introspective consequential blowback. Dashcam’s politics and ghost story are wholly separate elements, making Savage’s commitment to Hardy’s character all the more ill-intended in hindsight—but sadly understandable when Annie freestyles obscene flattery about Savage over the credits. How cute.

The 1.5 points of credit this movie gets from me reflect the cumulative five-ish minutes of clarity where blood squirts. Otherwise, Savage wastes all the chaotic energy of Annie’s escape on something so visually spastic that it makes The Blair Witch Project look like it was shot by Roger Deakins.

Dashcam is so unwatchable I bet even Daily Wire producers are laughing behind closed doors. Connections between on-set fantasies and reality cannot be ignored, which erases whatever failed commentary put this wreck in motion. Savage never challenges our perception with humanitarian empathy for Annie; Dashcam holds its audience hostage like a petulant preschooler and preaches its protagonist’s noxious conspiracy jargon with baseless demands for acknowledgement. I’d believe the script was written overnight on Truth Social and shot by a camera tied to a garbage can rolling downhill if that were presented as fact. That’s more believable than hearing the people behind Host followed one of the biggest horror hits in years with a passion project that has maybe one-eighth the presence and charisma of Alex Jones’ pinky toe. What an astounding embarrassment and abrupt fall from grace—my excitement for the next two projects in Savage’s three-picture Blumhouse deal is now as non-existent as Dashcam’s narrative competence.

Director: Rob Savage
Writer: Rob Savage, Gemma Hurley, Jed Shepherd
Starring: Annie Hardy, Angela Enahoro, Amar Chandha-Patel
Release Date: June 3, 2022


Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.