I have never in all my years of consuming media found a main character that I liked less than Annie. They designed her perfectly.
Directed by Rob Savage, written by Gemma Hurley and Jed Shepherd, and starring Annie Hardy, Amer Chadha-Patel, and Angela Enahoro, Dashcam (2021) purely vibes.
We follow Annie, a live stream content creator who gets views by making raps in her car about how much she hates liberals and the pandemic. She travels to London to meet up with an old bandmate only to be “cast out” for her abrasive personality. She decides the best course of action is to steal his car and create some mayhem and oh boy does she find it.
Through a series of shady events, Annie finds herself transporting an elderly woman named Angela to an undisclosed location for a large sum of money. Sounds easy enough, but if Angela has anything to do with it it will be anything but.
So let’s break this down by character and tropes.
Dashcam and Annie’s Rage-Bait
When doing my due diligence for this review one thing became very clear: This movie was very polarizing.
From the beginning, Annie is an unlikeable character who makes her lack of charisma everyone else’s problem from wearing see-through masks to starting fights with customer service reps to outright abandoning her friends when they are in danger. She was written with such a specific reaction in mind and they definitely got it.
Creating Unlikable characters is almost imperative for a well-rounded cast. The unruly character is usually a side-character or villain. This movie only had five people in it, some with less than a dozen lines, so it made it hard to separate your innate want for the main character to succeed from your hope that she gets clobbered.
However, I think this was a good example of breaking that trope. She was unlikable, but did she deserve it?
I’ll be honest, this movie put me in the boxing ring with my morals and I still can’t say who won that match.
From Annie’s disregard for any other character, often using them for clout or human shields when need arose, to her blatant disregard for propriety, she was the antagonist for every character that deserved better.
I think it’s safe to say that we all know an Annie in the real world. At least in varying degrees. On one end of the spectrum are the people with prank YouTube channels that thrive off the clout from doing pranks that risk running afoul of The Geneva Convention to the person that makes specific ideologies their main personality traits and looks to fight anyone that shares their vigor for the opposite cause.
Yeah, so that that makes her so unlikable.
Speaking of Annie, Annie Hardy they actress absolutely kills this role. When you think of it, it takes a high-level of diabolical intelligence and a heaping helping of slimy cleverness to extract this much bitter venom from a performance. Annie Hardy spends the majority of her time as a singer-songwriter so her ability to come up with her zany freestyles made her a brilliant casting choice.
Angela, Ageism and Possession
When I say this movie is pure vibes I mean it so honestly. If you were to ask me the actual plot past anger baiting and genuinely terrifying jump scares I could not tell you.
I think Angela’s character was the perfect example of this. At least in Annie’s case, she was a recognizable archetype, Angela was placed with a specific trope in mind and held no other value to the story.
That trope naturally being “old people being scary.” That’s it.
There are plenty of films that continue to exploit ageism in horror. Examples: The Visit (2015), The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) and The Manor (2021). The point is that using someone in a deteriorating state to puppeteer a storyline is widely used and known.
Angela is, from what we see of her, some sort of victim of a cultish ritual that turned her from a sixteen-year-old girl into a woman of her later 80s, but also less human. The logistics of this are never explained which I’ll be honest was frustrating.
Simply because in the end Angelica didn’t even stay human. Towards the climax of the movie, some monster thing popped out of her like Prometheus (2012) shifting the entire plot from terrifying old person to diabolical possession? Not even sure.
At the surface level that isn’t big of a deal. Horror movies have been using cheap tricks and redirection to garner thrills since their conception, but there is something to be said about using an entire demographic as your monster and them then pulling the rug out from under it. If filmmakers are going to continue lean on ageism in horror, at least show some respect by sticking to the script.
Had there been an explanation for Angela’s state like the thing inside of her feeding specifically on her regenerative cells to make itself, similar to a baby or something to that effect it may have warranted her age and actions, but she didn’t even talk.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to need a hand-holding through a horror movie, but this felt borderline lazy and a opportunistically ageist.
Tropes and Techniques
It’s crazy to me to think that movies are already being made about the pandemic as a historical event.
Expanding beyond the tactile horror, this film is a really interesting take on the liminal space that exists between social media, isolation, and shock value.
It was filmed completely on an iPhone from the perspective of a viewer of Annie’s livestream. This creates really realistic problems for Annie like the lack of phone signal, internet trolls and location pinging. Unsurprisingly, social media in horror is becoming a trope all to itself.
There has been this really interesting shift in horror media that I am loving the exploration of and that is social media as the underlying villain and how we use it in a post-COVID world.
This specific film looked to be set smack dab in the middle of quarantine when the only real line of connection you had to the outside world was through your screen.
One of the few things this movie really got right was that feeling. Annie’s irrational behavior, the content of the comments she was receiving, and her desperation for nostalgic connection were so reminiscent of what that time was like in which we are still seeing the effects of today.
Overall this movie was fun and frustrating. I might represent one of the more entertaining example of social media horror. Minimally, Dashcam will go down as having one of the best credits roles in horror history. Would I recommend it to anyone? Only if you want to be angry and confused and scared all at the same time. It was, say it with me, purely vibes.