While the world remained in indefinite lockdown during the first half of 2020, British writer/director Rob Savage took the anxieties and uncertainties we all felt and turned it into an award winning 50 minute film called Host. Shot entirely over Zoom during the first wave of quarantine, Host perfectly captured what it felt like during that time, while also delivering a legitimately creepy supernatural thriller.
Savage’s follow up film Dashcam, also deals heavily with pandemic life and, much like Host, also takes place entirely within the realm of social media (this time a livestream). But between behind the scenes drama, and a less groundbreaking approach, Dashcam sadly doesn’t live up to its director’s preceding film.
The entirety of the film takes place over a livestream entitled BandCar, in which our protagonist Annie Hardy performs an improv music show while driving around. Not only is Annie Hardy the actress’ real name, but she really does livestream herself doing this very same show.
Hardy is an unapologetic and diehard Trump supporter/anti-masker/Covid conspiracy theorist (which also all seems to be true based on her real life social media accounts), so she grows tired of all the lockdowns and restrictions in Los Angeles, and flies to London to meet up with a former bandmate of hers.
Over the course of the night (after which she wears out her welcome and steals her friend’s car), she drives around all night and gets into a terrifying situation involving some sort of supernatural “creature”. All while livestreaming the event for an audience of hundreds who are commenting the entire time.
One of the most common issues people seem to have with Dashcam is its protagonist. As previously mentioned, Annie is extremely right wing and promotes potentially dangerous conspiracy theories. She vehemently refused to wear a mask, and very quickly pissed off the very people she was staying with.
In the traditional sense, she is by no means a “likeable” character. But that doesn’t mean she’s not an interesting one. She comes off as incredibly manic and with that chaotic and often combative energy, it does make the story more interesting as it plays out.
The movie also paints her behavior as incredibly problematic. And given that the actress and character are one it the same, it seems likely that the real Annie is playing an exaggerated version of herself. Either that or she really does have the complete lack of social awareness Annie the character has and doesn’t realize that the film is seemingly mocking her.
Many criticized the film for even including a character (and actress) who held these views. Petty tribalism aside, it would be one thing if the film was actively promoting her views in some propagandized manner. But quite the opposite, it kind of just makes her look like a fool.
The biggest issue with Dashcam isn’t the protagonist or the political viewpoints she purports. Rather its biggest issue is that it’s not a particularly creative or original “found footage” film. Whereas Host utilized its Zoom format and made it part of the narrative, even using it to reinforce the terror of a demon traveling via webcams, Dashcam barely scratches the surface of its potential.
It has more in common with the slew of subpar found footage films that came out in the early/mid 2010s during the subgenre’s biggest boom. It relies on cheap jump scares, frustrating shaky cam, and never justifies why the camera is still rolling, or why none of the hundreds of viewers thought to report what was happening to the police.
The sad truth is Dashcam isn’t worth the controversy surrounding it. London-based movie theater chain Vue faced scrutiny for canceling screenings of the film, with many alleging it was due to Annie’s “offensive” comments about politics and Covid. Vue denied this, claiming that it was purely for financial reasons, and after seeing the film, it’s easy to see why they’d want to pass.
At its core, the movie’s premise is intriguing enough and its protagonist interesting enough to watch, albeit in a cringe manner. And had it come from another director, it might be better received. It’s just when you revolutionize a genre and make waves, and then your follow up film is downright generic, people tend to accuse the director of being better than this…
What did you think of Dashcam? How did it compare to Host? Let us know in the comments!