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TIFF Review: ‘Dashcam’ is Chaotic Screenlife Horror with Little Payoff

September 15, 2021Ben MK

Most often associated with The Blair Witch Project, the found footage genre encompasses such films as Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, and has even evolved with technology, with movies like Unfriended and Searching taking the storytelling technique and adapting it for computer screens rather than video recordings. Now, with Dashcam, director Rob Savage is giving moviegoers his latest take on the tried-and-true concept, in this story of a live streamer who gets more than she bargained for.

Starring real-life musician Annie Hardy, the film follows a fictitious, anti-masking version of Hardy as she travels from Los Angeles to London to visit her friend Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel). Leaving her cat Goostein behind, Annie documents her journey using an app on her phone to broadcast as "BandCar, the Internet's #1 Live Improvised Music Show Broadcast from a Music Video." However, what starts out as some innocently immature misadventure soon takes a terrifying turn, after Annie encounters a woman who offers to pay her to drive an obviously unwell senior citizen named Angela (Angela Enahoro) to a mysterious location. Soon, Annie finds herself fighting for survival against a seemingly demonic entity that possesses what appears to be telepathic abilities. Once she arrives at her destination, though, will she be rewarded with a respite or just more chaos?

Both shot and set during the COVID lockdown, what follows takes the frenetic, shaky camera work the genre has become known for and dials it up to eleven, resulting in scene after scene where it's frustratingly difficult to discern what might be happening on-screen. For better or worse, however, Dashcam's visual aesthetic is more or less in line with its gimmicky, social media-infused narrative, which will undoubtedly leave viewers with more questions than answers when the blood, gore and expletives are all said and done.

Dashcam screens under the Midnight Madness programme at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 17 min.

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