Dashcam was a movie I had never heard of until it was released last week. The movie premiered exclusively on streaming services here in the States. Even then, it was a premium release on Amazon Prime and Youtube, so you’re gonna have to pay a penny for it. But the only reason it raised my eyebrows was because of what happened to it in the UK.
Apparently, the theatrical release was pulled from UK cinema chain Vue for being “too offensive.” Was this true? Possibly, but the fact of the matter is that a horror movie had its release canceled, so it made me curious about what was inside of it. I mean, the last time it happened here was because of The Hunt, but that movie was a dud and the pandemic only made it even more so. Is Dashcam so controversial that it’s worth being canceled?
Yes and no. But not how you may expect it.
Director: Rob Savage
Release Date: June 3, 2022 (VOD)
Dashcam is another breed of pandemic-produced cinema, very similar to movies like Recovery insomuch as they tie their premise around the pandemic and the lockdowns associated with them. The director, Rob Savage, actually produced a horror movie in 2020, Host, completely virtually and was able to score a Blumhouse deal for three feature films because of it. This is the first film of the deal and if it’s a sign of things to come, Savage is a horror director to watch.
The film stars Annie Hardy, who is an anti-vax vlogger and is playing a fictionalized version of herself, as she flies to the UK to escape Covid lockdowns in America. While there she acts like a Karen, breaks into her friend Stretch’s (Amer Chandaha-Patel) house, and comes across as a tryhard edgelord before being kicked out by Stretch. All the while, she streams for her dozen or so fans, even when she steals Stretch’s car and takes it for a joy ride. But she eventually does pick up an elderly woman named Angela and all hell breaks loose.
So I’m gonna be real with you all; the first twenty minutes are unbearable. Annie is one of the most hateful, annoying, and infuriating horror protagonists I’ve ever seen. She’s the worst. Literally. If you were to tell me you hate this movie because of Annie, I wouldn’t fault you at all. Spending a third of the movie with her before the horror truly starts was an endurance test in all of the worst ways.
The film also uses shaky-cam constantly so if you hate it, you’ll probably hate Dashcam. Whether it’s been shot from a stable dashcam or Annie’s iPhone, you’re going to be looking at a lot of screens. I’m never opposed to a style like this, as I think it’s a tool that every director is able to use. However, if you’re someone who cannot stand shaky-cam or can get motion sickness easily, then you may want to steer away from this film. Both of those elements can make watching Dashcam an incredibly unpleasant experience.
Now with those two major qualifiers out of the way, I can say with dead seriousness that Dashcam was the most terrified I’ve been at a horror film in ages. I’m not even joking. I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, but this movie made me sleep with my bedroom door locked. It made my blood pressure and my adrenaline legitimately rise to the point where I needed to get out of my house afterwords just to calm down.
What make’\s Dashcam so effective as a horror movie is that the build-up to the chaos is gradual. For the first 20 minutes, there’s no inkling whatsoever of any horror elements. The scariest bit is probably when Annie breaks into her friend’s house because, at this point, the audience doesn’t know what kind of horror movie it is. But then it dawns on you that Dashcam is a monster movie with a ruthless and relentless nightmare that DOES. NOT. STOP.
At first, the horror is creepy. Maybe you’ll be in a creepy location, or a character may stare at the camera and something unsettling will happen. You’ll be freaked out and unnerved, but unsure what it’s all building up to. Then there’s the eerie quiet of it all. There’s no soundtrack accentuating these moments, the characters are in silence or listening to whatever diegetic noise is around them. You’re left to stew in this uncomfortable situation until the nightmare truly begins.
Dashcam will straight-up assault you with how vicious and in your face it is with its scares. There are gallons of blood, psychopaths, shotgun-wielding maniacs, an absurd mystery, cults, transformations, and a chase scene that had me screaming. This movie inspires terror. Even Terminators would run from the monster that stalks Annie and Stretch. In my notes regarding the monster, I just had, in all caps, “NUKE THIS THING. NUKE IT NOW.”
The film also doesn’t overstay its welcome, lasting just over an hour and ending pretty quickly. There’s little fanfare to the ending, the conflict literally resolves itself, and then the credits roll. I’m perfectly okay with that, especially given how much panic I experienced in those 40 glorious minutes. If this was screened in a theater, I guarantee you that it would be one of the most talked-about movies of the year just because of the insane audience reactions it would have. This is how cult word of mouth hits spread, and I’m just doing my part to spread the gospel.
But again, there are two big detractors here and they’re not insignificant. Annie is consistently terrible, although she lets up as the movie goes on and the insanity of the situation dawns on her. She never completely gets rid of her insufferability, but thankfully it takes a backseat when needed. As Annie blends in though, the chaotic camera work does become an issue. There’s a scene towards the end of a movie that takes place in a house that is shot so poorly that despite being set inside of one building, it felt like we were in three completely different locations within the span of 2 minutes.
When Dashcam works, it really, REALLY, works. When it doesn’t, it really, REALLY doesn’t. I can see people being up in arms about the movie because of how reprehensible Annie is, how many of her beliefs are legitimately dangerous, and how she experiences no consequences or karmic retribution for her actions. On the other hand, I just saw a movie that made me too scared to use my own bathroom at night without a light. Sure, there is an argument to be made about it and how dirt simple the plot and situation are, but not every horror movie needs intense lore and a masterful story when the point of it is just to scare you. In that case, then considered it mission accomplished. Very little substance, but dear lord is it effective at freaking you out.