Rob Savage’s found footage Zoom call horror film HOST was hailed in 2020 as “catching lightning in a bottle” for cleverly utilizing available technology during the COVID-19 pandemic to craft a somewhat passable horror.
I personally did not care for HOST. I found it to be derivative of previous films that utilized screen recording software like Unfriended and Unfriended Dark Web, two films I thought utilized the gimmick in a more natural way. What bothered me further was the hypocrisy I found in bigger name horror sites who had slammed Unfriended for being derivative went on to hail HOST as some kind of internet second coming when it was guilty of the same transgressions that made Unfriended a semi-disposable watch.
Despite my own ambivalence to HOST, I was most interested to examine his latest offering DASHCAM at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival 2021, especially since it was under the Blumhouse releasing company, and produced by none other than the man-cum-Funko pop legend himself, Jason Blum.
DASHCAM is again another found footage screen-recorded film, filmed during UK lockdown during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It has a 77 minute run time and stars American musician and Conservative “right wing” twitter talking head pundit Annie Hardy. If you recognize her name, you will know that she has previously collaborated with the Deftones (I see you, White Pony fans).
In DASHCAM, Annie plays herself. She’s an anti-SJW singer/rapper, who broadcasts herself playing abhorrently off-tune and obnoxious rap music in a live-streaming show called “Band Car”. She’s LA living and exhausted with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns and hops on a flight to the UK to surprise her friend Stretch, another rapper/musician.
On her flight she is resplendent in a surgical mask with the word SLAVE emblazoned on the front of it, and a sweater that says LIBERAL which is crossed out.
It becomes pretty clear very quickly, that Annie, both in reality and on the screen are best described as right-wing provocateurs. Annie’s ongoing rap music contains anti-COVID and anti-vaccine rhetoric, she rants incessantly about “liberals” and penises.
I initially thought Annie was representing some kind of right wing satire character, but a peek into her Twitter account with anti-Black Lives Matter tweets, pro-Trump tweets, “China virus” tweets, tweets about Bill Gates and microchips, etc ad nauseam show that her “character” in the film is anything but satire.
Truly, this is Poe’s law writ large for the horror set.
As DASHCAM wore on, I found myself exhausted. Annie is obnoxious and I understand however, that this may be endearing to some. That said, her obnoxiousness aside, the film lacked structure or even a coherent plot.
When Annie isn’t ranting about anti-masks and liberal tears, she’s stealing cars, calling people Feminazi and finding never explained COVID zombies hidden in liminal backrooms. The actual horror is less in a few cheap zombie and shitty adult diaper shots but more in what Annie is constantly saying and the fact that Rob Savage and Blumhouse both felt it appropriate to provide a platform for these type of views to be spewed and endorsed whether intentionally or not. As in the aforementioned Poe’s law, without the creators explicit intent it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views without being seen to endorse them and never once is it made clear that Annie’s views are not the ones held by either Rob Savage or Blumhouse. She’s certainly never really punished for them. Anytime she does have to face consequences for her actions, like when she breaks quarantine to joyride around England and finds a COVID Zombie, she spends a few seconds screaming and bloody only to be back to rapping about dicks and balls and liberals in the next scene. When she accidentally kills a couple while driving, she drapes her “anti-liberal” sweater over the bride’s corpse before staggering away to rap about how she can rhyme “orange” with “syringe” and how she “won’t take no vaccine” from a syringe.
Eventually and mercifully, the film does end, but not before Annie raps over the credits, which I’d sooner rather eat a bowl of thumbtacks than ever have to sit through again.
As I mentioned previously, what is most horrific about this “film” is the shockingly cavaliere nature that was taken in offering a platform to Annie Hardy’s views. I work in healthcare. I’ve worked this entire pandemic. I’ve seen a lot of death. I’ve seen a lot of pain and grief, and loss. Movies are my “safe space” (inb4 Annie Hardy stans call me a lefty liberal cucktard or whatever), but I do a lot of my healing and understanding while watching films. And this film was allowing right wing social media talking points and dogwhistles to pollute an otherwise enjoyable experience and I am truly flummoxed as to why Blumhouse, a studio that has virtue signalled ad fucking nauseam online about being progressive, would stoop to offering this type of platform to these type of views and shrug it off. If I can make a little COVID joke here, it would appear that not only did Rob Savage but Blumhouse go, you guessed it, “mask off”. Roll on snare drum. Good joke.
But really, the next time I’d like to be punched in the guts as a healthcare worker, I’d prefer it not be from a horror studio and Blumhouse, that’s what you did. I guess, I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.
I’d like to say I’m surprised, but really, I’m only surprised that it took this long.
Anyways, if you want to watch a film that’s somehow less exploitative and disgusting than DASHCAM, just know that Corona Zombies is available. That said I do look ever so forward to reading all those horror folks who slammed Corona Zombies to highly endorse DASHCAM. The ironing I’m sure will be delicious, anyways, back to my bowl of thumbtacks.
Or if you wanna watch something with any type of meaning, might I recommend 76 DAYS, a film that streamed at last year’s TIFF 2020, and details the plights of doctors and nurses in Wuhan, China as they race to save people dying of COVID. You can read our coverage of 76 Days here.
DIAG final thoughts: DASHCAM felt like a right-wing Barney video one might put on for their Conservative relatives on Thanksgiving to get them to shut up for a while, which if you think about it, is about the same as putting on FOX News or going on twitter for any length of time.
Anywho, in case you feel like perusing, here’s a few Annie Hardy tweets for your amusement.
DIAG RATING: 0/6 – this isn’t a film, it doesn’t get a rating.
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