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#TIFF21 Review: Dashcam (Midnight Madness)

September 16, 2021

By John Corrado

★½ (out of 4)

Director Rob Savage made waves during the pandemic when he released Host, a horror movie set on Zoom. Now he returns with the Blumhouse-produced Dashcam, another pandemic project that was apparently made on the fly without much of a script and just a basic outline. And it’s a mess.

The “found footage” film follows Annie Hardy (playing an extreme version of herself), an indie musician who has an online show called Band Car. She drives around Los Angeles streaming from her car, making up freestyle raps based on words that people throw up in the comments. It’s a bit that grows old fast, and it doesn’t help that Annie is extremely grating as a character. She is a stereotype of a reactionary online troll who says and does provocative things to get a reaction, proudly wearing her MAGA hat, denying the COVID pandemic, and refusing to wear a mask anywhere she goes.

We are already tired of her purposely obnoxious antics before the first scene is even over, and it’s a chore to spend an entire movie with her. Annie ditches quarantine in L.A. and escapes to London, England to pay a surprise visit to her old bandmate Stretch (Amar Chadha Patel) and his “woke” girlfriend (Jemma Moore). They, too, grow tired of their surprise visitor, prompting Annie to take off in Stretch’s car. She soon picks up a mysterious passenger (Angela Enahoro) and, well, shit happens (literally).

What follows is an anarchic mix of Blair Witch Project and Evil Dead, with Annie’s perpetually running livestream capturing the insanity, as comments flood in on the bottom left corner of the screen. The film does have a few jump scares and some gross out moments that do work to make us feel queasy, coupled with the kinetic camerawork. But Dashcam can’t really sustain itself for a feature running time and the protagonist tests our patience right from the start.

It’s only 77 minutes long (about ten minutes of which are end credits that treat us to more of Hardy’s cringey rapping), and even then it feels stretched to the breaking point. I kind of wanted to admire the free-flowing, anything goes, experimental quality of Dashcam, but the end result doesn’t work as a whole. I did watch the film at home, so maybe it plays better with an audience, I don’t know. But my reactions ranged from “WTF am I watching” to simply feeling like I was wasting my time.

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 11th – 11:59 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox

Sunday, September 12th – 3:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

Thursday, September 16th – 9:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9th to 18th.

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