TIFF 2021 Review: Dashcam

Written by Taylor Baker

85/100

Dashcam begins inordinately and unceremoniously with Annie starting her #1 Stream. It seems like a fairly ordinary and reductive punching down interpretation of contemporary politics in the West. We get moments of her yapping at people without masks on, laughing at people asking her to put on a mask. It’s no secret what it seems Dashcam’s director Rob Savage is going to be up to. At least right up until everything you thought you knew gets flipped on its head.

Annie boards a plane from LAX in her No Liberals shirt to go visit her old friend Stretch. He lives in the UK with a girlfriend and may not have been notified of her impending arrival. At least not until a Silver Lake Handshake wakes him up in the middle of the night in a terrible fright. Annie tags along and meanders about with Stretch for a bit, upsetting his girlfriend and upending anything she can everywhere she goes. All while live streaming from her phone. There aren’t conventionally cinematic shots, rather everything is presented through the screenlife format of a digital live stream like one would see on YouTube, Twitch, etc.

Savage is following up his 2020 Shudder hit Host which featured a modest 60-minute runtime shot entirely during Covid that also utilized the screenlife format. Eventually, Annie causes Stretch and his girlfriend to get into an argument over whether she should be allowed to stay. And instead of waiting to hear out their determination Annie bails and takes his car keys. His phone still in the vehicle, Annie begins an order for an Uber delivery on his phone. Unknowingly casting herself down a dark Lovecraftian nightmare as soon as she enters a darkened seemingly empty cafe to pick up an order.

Dashcam revels in its formal presentation which both Savage and Hardy seem to not only understand but have a talent for delivering through. Conjoining genre trope, handheld cinematography, and unyielding pacing into a fun and sinister romp and fresh entry to the found footage sub-genre. Dashcam is one of the most exciting, distinctive, and intriguing pieces of independent film to surface in 2021, marking Savage as a filmmaker to keep up with for years to come.

Dashcam was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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