‘Dashcam’ review: MAGA, anti-vaxx rhetoric smother this found footage horror film
Annie Hardy in DASHCAM.

The newfound footage horror film Dashcam dives head first into the controversy surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic. Despite one million people dying in the United States as a result of the virus, there are plenty who refuse to believe this health catastrophe is as severe as doctors and scientists have said. The film puts center stage a main character who embodies this divisive sentiment.

Sure, there are plenty of supernatural jump scares in Dashcam, but perhaps the most horrifying aspect is the protagonist Annie, and the real danger her views and actions cause for herself and those around her. For some reason, the filmmakers have decided to make a MAGA-red-hat-wearing, anti-vaxx-believing, somewhat racist final girl their “heroine.” Is it satire? Is it the dreaded “bothsidesism”? Are they being controversial to spark a conversation? Whatever it is, the result is a movie with an overbearing, unlikeable main character who nearly sucks the air and thrills out of an otherwise scary film.

Directed by Rob Savage (Host), who co-wrote the screenplay with Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, Dashcam tells the story of a musician named Annie who has been live streaming with her fans as she drives around downtown Los Angeles. Annie, who is against the pandemic lockdowns and mitigation tactics, decides to escape to the U.K. to visit her old bandmate. Her anti-vaxx and anti-mask behavior soon causes chaos and tension. Annie decides to run off with her bandmate’s car and livestream herself doing rideshare deliveries around town but soon gets caught up with sinister supernatural forces who aim to take her soul. This shaky camera horror-filled adventure is of course livestreamed for us, the movie audience, and Annie’s fictional viewers.

Now, to be clear, I don’t think you have to love, or even like, a main character in order to enjoy a film. There are plenty of solid movies in the world where a main character is polarizing and has questionable morals, annoying quirks, or a downright evil personality. What often saves these types of movies is that these characters are not allowed to overshadow the storytelling. They often exist to serve a purpose in the story. It’s not about them, but what they represent. Such as Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal in Joker.

You know his trajectory is a doomed one, but the filmmaker, knowing we’ll have to spend so much time with his character, works to draw us in and get invested in his journey. Unfortunately, no such mechanism is used in Dashcam. Viewers are forced to stick close to Annie without the character earning the investment of the 77 minutes we’re made to watch her. If the choice was made to have a character so polarizing in order for viewers to sympathize with the “other side,” or find common ground, then the movie fails in that endeavor. Annie is aggressively bold with her views and we’re never really given a reason why. She destroys any chance of sympathy with her unrepentant tendency to ridicule others in her slur- and insult-riddled “songs” that she sings while driving.

That then leaves the idea that Annie’s story serves as a cautionary tale. Maybe through her constant mistakes and insensitivity, we’re supposed to learn how not to act when it comes to political differences. I do feel that Annie’s character is so over the top and ridiculous as to drive home the irrationality of those who lean on conspiracy theories rather than facts. There are characters in the movie who counter her behavior, but they are often overpowered by Annie’s dialogue. There’s a subtle nod to the notion that in the end, no matter what, Annie’s actions will be the end of her, but it may be too little too late for an audience subjected to her exploits for over an hour-and-a-half.

Or perhaps Annie is really a test for the audience, to see whether we’re capable of caring for the life of a character that we may vehemently disagree with politically. Well, if that is the case, I failed the test because I came away not caring if Annie lives or dies. Then again, I don’t think anyone will care if this character lives or dies no matter where they land on the political spectrum. That’s not a failure in our humanity, but a failure in the storytelling.

A saving grace of the film lies in the effective horror scares. The action never really lets up once the supernatural plot kicks off. The sinister happenings are welcomed in that they give us a bit of a break from Annie when she’s too scared to say something offensive. Director Rob Savage, along with co-writers Hurley and Shepard, are no strangers to computer screen footage horror since they gave the world the superior movie Host in 2020. There are genuinely terrifying moments for those wanting a horror fix. The question is, will that be enough for viewers who won’t care for the main character?

Overall, Dashcam delivers a blood-soaked horror-filled ride, but it fails to supply the audience with an effective character worth taking it with.

Dashcam will be released on VOD and theatrically nationwide on June 3, 2022.


Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.