Director Rob Savage follows up his highly acclaimed 2020 feature Host with Dashcam. It’s a freaky effort that uses an intriguing style that falls somewhere between direct cinema and found footage. There’s much to recommend about the film, though the lead character is so grating — no matter which way your politics lie — that it cancels out some of Dashcam’s goodwill. Musician and anti-vaxxer Annie Hardy plays a revved-up version of herself, hosting a livestreaming show in which she raps in an improv style while driving around in her car. In an effort to escape what she feels is the overbearing strictness toward COVID-19 in the United States to visit an old bandmate Stretch (Amar Chadha-Patel) in the U.K. — obviously, she didn’t do much homework before purchasing her ticket. She wreaks havoc in Stretch’s life before stealing his car and winds up picking up a sick elderly woman (Angela Enahoro), but the woman isn’t merely sick, and here the film puts the pedal to the metal and heads into full-on horror territory, with plenty of jump scares — I’m not a big fan of them, but here Savage makes them work — gruesome occurrences, and the red stuff. As mentioned, Hardy’s character isn’t just annoying because of her belief system, she is exasperating because of her selfish actions and hurtful behavior toward her friend. Thankfully, Stretch provides some character sympathy. User comments that run throughout most of Dashcam also pull away attention, though some remarks add to the darkly humorous tone of the film. Savage pulls off another winner of a fear-fare film with Dashcam, though it is bound to be a divisive work.
Director Christian Schultz’s slow-burn chiller Presence is an intriguing work, a supernatural horror film that drops breadcrumbs about its protagonist and her state of well-being — or rather, lack thereof — without tipping its hand too much until the third act. Jennifer (Jenna Lyng Adams) has been haunted by dreams of violence and unable to contact her friend and business partner Sam (Alexandria DeBerry) for several weeks, until Sam lets her know out of the blue that they have a life-changing business deal in the offing which will start off with a yacht trip to Puerto Rico hosted by investor David (Dave Davis), who may have some sort of romantic entanglement with Sam. Out on the open sea, Jennifer’s behavior continues to worsen, irritating Sam and causing David to second-guess his potential investment in the women’s business. There’s always something else happening just outside of normal events, as well, adding to the uncanny proceedings, which are sometimes presented in a chilly manner. The performances of the three leads are impressive, keeping Presence an engaging watch even when it treads in familiar territory.
Dashcam and Presence screened as part of Panic Fest, which ran April 28–May 8, 2022, in Kansas City, with a virtual option. For more information, visit https://panicfilmfest.com/.
Dashcam, from Blumhouse Productions and Momentum Pictures, will be released on VOD and theatrically nationwide on June 3, 2022.