Following up the fantastically frightening Host was never going to be a walk in the park for writer/director Rob Savage and writer/producers Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, but the trio have thankfully smashed it with the dazzlingly demented Dashcam.
With scale, production and (presumably) budget enhanced, and clout bolstered by Blumhouse, Dashcam retains the faux “found footage” online vibe that worked so well with its predecessor, yet this is more sprawling and adventurous, despite, like Host, being produced during the pandemic, with crew and fictional characters operating under Covid restrictions.
The story introduces us to grating anti-vax vlogger Annie Hardy (Annie Hardy) who livestreams a journey to the UK from America as part of her improvised driving/music show BandCar. Upon arrival, Annie meets ex-band mate/musical collaborator “Stretch” (Amar Chadha-Patel) who has since settled down, got married and found a job delivering food.
After clashing with Stretch’s wife Angela (Angela Enahoro), Annie abandons the couple, steals their car and embarks on a solo/livestreamed excursion during which she encounters a shady character in a local café who offers her cash to drive a sick old lady to a nearby address.
Annie agrees but things take a turn for the terrifying as she is launched into a series of bloody, white-knuckle set pieces, interspersed with short-lived moments of respite/clarity during which Annie barely has time to process what’s happening before being catapulted into further mayhem.
Dashcam feels like an unruly, progressive epic when compared to its claustrophobic predecessor but, while not as frightening as Host, it’s more energetic, playful, vivacious and electrifying, with hyper-charged characters and an action powered plot woven with terror and frenzied suspense.
Light relief arises via hilarious viewer comments which loop upwards on the left of the screen as the story unravels. Some of these serve as a kind of meta commentary on the characters and plot, with one viewer remarking on Stretch’s decision to wander into a dark forest on his own, noting this is what usually happens in films of this ilk.
Despite both being found footage horrors in spirit, Dashcam differs from Host by bravely exploring other subgenres, albeit in a slightly scattershot way. This disorientating but never detrimental MO makes the story more engaging, as does the break-neck pacing and each frame of phantasmagorical mayhem immaculately capturing cacophony while retaining enough realism to be disconcerting and palpable.
Like being electrocuted while riding a rollercoaster, Dashcam is a sense assailing, renegade freak-out that never lets up. With enough gnarly, visceral thrills and surreal humour in the final two thirds, it confidently twitches through styles and subgenres, pulsing with punk aesthetics/energy while recalling 80s video cults like Street Trash, Neon Maniacs and even Repo Man (a little), merged with the anarchic body horror of Brian Yuzna and Screaming Mad George.
While a lack of likable characters and development slightly hinder the horror (it’s impossible to get behind infuriating lead Annie), Dashcam engages enough to leave viewers shaken, crazed and massively entertained as it gazelles with monstrous abandon and bat shit panache like a mad drunk witch in a rap battle with a nun.