Mike’s Review: Dashcam (Popcorn Frights 2021)

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Jake searching high and low to unravel the dashcam mystery.
★★★ out of ★★★★★

Directed by Christian Nilsson.

The son of De Palma’s Blow-Out! The grandson of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up! A new vision of paranoid conspiracy theories as told through the latest fandangled piece of technology! Or in this case technologies. 

In this brand new take on man’s techno-obsessive nature, director Christian Nilsson takes us deep into the cramped mind and the computer of Jake (Eric Tabach) and his dumb luck discovery of the story of a lifetime. 

In what really amounts to a one-man play, Jake exists in the high-pressure world of editing work for a local NYC news station. Hell-bent on finishing a mundane, but nonetheless important, element of the story for his churlish on-air talent, Tim (Zachary Booth), he’s inadvertently emailed some digital files that are not for prying eyes. 

Tim, and by extension Jake, are following an explosive story about a former New York State Attorney General, Lieberman (THE Larry Fessenden), who may have been the victim of political assassination by THE GOVERNOR! The police have decided to release the “dashcam” footage as an exclusive to Jake’s TV station. All Jake has to do is record some voice-over from the “talent”, edit the footage, and send it off to the station. Easy peasy. 

Jake receives the footage, but he also receives more, much more. As he begins to dissect the digital files he’s been sent he realizes that the dashcam package contains an autopsy report, voice recordings, and photos — none of which jibe with the official telling of the story. 

While Blow Out dealt with a hunky sound engineer (John Travolta) accidentally recording a murder, and Blow Up dealt with the haute couture photographer (David Hemmings) unknowingly capturing death on film, Dashcam deals with a nebbish and super-endearing film editor piecing apart the entire murderous tale within the confines of Adobe Premiere. 

The claustrophobia in Dashcam doesn’t come from sweeping Hitchcockian shots, or De Palma split-screen madness, it’s all on Jake’s desktop in the world of Premiere and Audition. He cuts, slices, renders, and applies effects. Sounds awfully boring, but it ain’t. Director Nilsson turns in a product that is familiar to us all. We are no longer beasts that solely have one piece of technology at our fingertips and he knows it. Our societal familiarity with phones, laptops, and TVs, and other gadgetry is what lures us in to collectively take part in Jake’s paranoid quest. 

As Jake is largely parked on the computer throughout the film, he has several comedically played online run-ins with his girlfriend and her friends all prepping for Halloween. A well-played social justice gag about inadvertently inappropriate costumes will surely make audiences chortle.

Even though Dashcam leans towards the thriller genre, as opposed to the horror genre, we’re going to cut it some slack. It takes place on Halloween and it’s got Larry Fessenden. Those two things say horror to us. Dashcam is a smart and well-conceived film. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of Adobe Premiere to understand why people are so damned sold on the intersection between true crime, conspiracy theories, and an undying need to believe in something good and true. Dashcam delivers on many different fronts, but the star of the show, Jake, and his earnest stick-to-itiveness will have you invested in his techno-plight to the end.

Dashcam is likely rated PG-13 for a little language. Check back soon for release info!

Review by Mike Campbell

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