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Dashcam

Your tolerance for braindead provocation will probably determine how much you enjoy the live-stream found footage chiller “Dashcam,” an hour-plus-long horror movie about an obnoxious internet troll who gets chased around by a supernatural entity who sprays blood, feces, and urine. You might admire the filmmakers’ commitment to being as nasty as they want to be, especially given that this movie’s from the same creative team as the goofy but fitfully creepy Zoom séance pic “Host.” You also might find “Dashcam” to be just another button-mashing genre exercise, only with a ton of gross-out gags and some cool-looking stunt work.

You should probably also know that Annie (Annie Hardy), the movie’s loud antiheroine protagonist, does not get punished or meaningfully put through the wringer. Annie, a foul-mouthed antivaxxer, runs away from L.A. to London, where she hopes to crash with her former bandmate Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel) and his understandably miffed partner Gemma (Jemma Moore). Annie’s trans-Atlantic voyage puts her on a whimsical path to Angela (Angela Enahoro), a violent, disoriented, and sickly-looking older Black woman who also has psychic powers and can’t control her bowels. Angela chases Annie and Stretch around; some cheap thrills ensue and no life lessons are learned.

The point of “Dashcam” seems to be its timely pointlessness. Like Annie’s livestream channel, this movie’s a fire hose of unprocessed emotions that not even the filmmakers attempt to process. Which is only annoying whenever Annie dips into her half-knowing, half-reflexive internet persona. So, a number of scenes. Hardy’s pinched high voice may bring to mind the impish comedienne Kristen Schaal, but her stream of profanities (many eyeroll-inducing japes about rape and sodomy) aren’t quirky-surprising as much as they’re a calculated spray of unpleasantness.

Director Rob Savage and his three co-writers want you to conflate Annie’s freewheeling behavior—she steals a car, open-palm slaps Stretch, and calls Gemma a “feminazi”—with her antivaxxer raving and her very online attention-seeking. She has a MAGA hat, an anti-“liberal” sweatshirt, and a cordless autotuning mic. When you look at Annie Hardy, you’re looking at a toxic mood board of Internet dickery.

But there’s nothing ambiguous about Annie or her character. She’s sometimes humanized because she endures a gauntlet of circumstantial peril, featuring car crashes, psychic-related phenomena, and a variety of bodily fluids. There’s also an extreme close-up of human feces that’s so harshly front-lit and physically proximate that you can not only see its texture, but also imagine what it smells like.

Occasionally, Annie tries to joke off the trouble that she and Stretch find themselves in after she impulsively takes money from a stranger (Seylan Baxter) to chauffeur Angela to a secluded residence. Annie tries to think of a rhyme for “orange” while she and Stretch are shot at and thrown around by various assailants, including a mysterious woman (Mogali Masuku) who, like Tony Danza, keeps calling out for “Angela!”

Annie says things like “so long, libtard” and “sh*t on my dick” like she’s got a specific kind of Internet Tourette Syndrome. Which checks out since Annie is the hostess of BandCar, an online streaming series where she drives around and improvises raunchy rap lyrics based on commenters’ suggestions. Only, unlike Annie Harding, who in real life also hosts an internet program called BandCar, Annie’s followers—represented in a chat sidebar on the screen’s lefthand side—speculate about Joe Biden’s blood-drinking habits and generally sound like Beavis and Buttheads’ grand-kids. Still, with fans like these, it stands to reason that Annie’s songs include free verses like “If you sanitize because you believe the lies that the mainstream media guys tell you.” Not exactly cutting edge stuff, as far political commentary goes, but it is a certain kind of water meeting its level.

That also seems to be the point of “Dashcam”: the entertainment that Annie offers her viewers during her UK sojourn doesn’t radically differ from her assaultive brand of stream-of-conscious shock jock humor. Imagine watching a composite of James Corden and Joe Rogan as she gets chased around by a vengeful wraith who doesn’t talk, but does love to fling everything else around her.

“Dashcam” also happens to be a showcase for disorienting special effects, most of which effectively keep viewers on their back-foot by making us wonder what we’re looking at. Now we’re in a car crash! Now we’re drowning in a car! Now we’re being chased around on all fours through the woods, into a hall of mirrors, and then back to another car!

In this way, “Dashcam” succeeds as a barrage of icky stimuli that may go great with a rowdy audience. (it’s already screened at some genre-friendly film festivals) So on the one hand: Savage and his co-creators deserve credit for dedicating themselves to a certain bit. On the other hand: I’m good, thanks. 

Now playing in theaters and available on VOD. 

Simon Abrams

Simon Abrams is a native New Yorker and freelance film critic whose work has been featured in The New York TimesVanity FairThe Village Voice, and elsewhere.

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Film Credits

Dashcam movie poster

Dashcam (2022)

Rated NR

77 minutes

Cast

Annie Hardy as Annie Hardy

Amar Chadha-Patel as Stretch

Angela Enahoro as Angela

Seylan Baxter as Seylan

Director

Writer

Editor

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