TIFF 2021 | Dashcam (Rob Savage, UK)

By Corey Atad 

As livestream horror has become a recognizable subgenre in its own right, director Rob Savage has deliberately thrown all caution to the wind, diving head first into absolute chaos with Dashcam, his follow-up to the more sparse, Zoom-set pandemic hit Host. The chaos begins well before the horror with our introduction to the film’s star and lead character Annie Hardy, an L.A. indie musician who here plays a fictionalized version of herself as a boundaryless, vulgar-as-hell freestyle rapper whose intrusion into the life of a friend living in the UK might have been terrifying enough on its own; it’s like something out of a Harmony Korine film, or, given “Hardy’s” brash anti-vaxxer attitudes, a vocal-fried post-Left podcast. 

Savage, though, chooses to use foul-mouthed Annie as a Final Girl as she accidentally waltzes into a plot involving a seemingly diseased old woman and a series of escalating, impressively engineered, and often disgusting horror sequences. It’s all heightened by the film’s deftly realized found-footage conceit, here presented as sections of Annie’s impossibly endless livestream (does her phone not need charging?), complete with fictional online viewers writing comments in the corner of the screen as the action plays out. The madcap, rollercoaster energy of the film, along with Annie’s consistently outrageous and off-putting behaviour, make for a horror-comedy that, in its best moments, recalls prime Sam Raimi, even as it always threatens to drive right off the road and into outright obnoxiousness (you’d be forgiven for thinking it does more than threaten). That, too, seems deliberate, a perfect and perfectly hilarious reflection of the worst side of social media: the online car crashes you just can’t look away from, here complemented by plenty of literal ones.