Release Date: 10/08/22 [Shudder]
"A disgraced internet personality attempts to win back his followers by livestreaming one night alone in a haunted house. But when he accidentally pisses off a vengeful spirit, his big comeback event becomes a real-time fight for his life."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
The horror genre – and everyone knows this, right? – is most successful as a commentary on the mundane. This is why, of course, the already-popular zombie oeuvre skyrocketed during the pandemic. Or why possession stories of family members were big in the Regan era when the nuclear family was disintegrating. And how found footage films paved their way with the rise of social media. Now, with the ubiquity of YouTube and TikTok, it is only natural to see horror dive into the scary, GenZ-populated world of livestreaming. Deadstream provides one such opening and the view is dizzying, fleeting, and surprisingly fun.
Deadstream focuses on livestreamer Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter), an influencer whose power is waning; a personality who is going flat. To boost viewership – and the almighty corporate sponsorship! – Shawn plans to stream his show from a supposedly haunted house. After a series of feints, where the only threat to the night is Shawn himself, he suddenly discovers – surprise! – that the house actually is haunted and all the demons within are after him.
Winter, along with his wife Vanessa, directs the movie and successfully captures that livestreaming feel. Unfortunately, the entire movie looks like a YouTube livestream with all the fumbling and stumbling around that The Blair Witch Project dictated over twenty years ago, but this time in colorful 4k. And with a chat window. Winter, as Ruddy, is annoying and nasally and self-entitled. Why anyone would watch his stream, of course if such existed, is baffling.
But then something changes.
Slightly after those excruciatingly-long first 45 minutes, Shawn comes across a fan, Chrissy (Melanie Stone), who “happens” to be in the same locked haunted house. And Chrissy has unusually keen insight on the mythology of the house once belonging to a dead Mormon poet. Chrissy, of course, is not a fan of the show but rather most anxious in Shawn’s soul. And from there, Deadstream becomes… enjoyable.
Deadstream proves that low-budget horror movies are not dead. Like the genre itself, indie filmmakers have capitalized the tools around them to make a fun show. Yes, the flat selfie-cam quickly becomes grating. Yes, Shawn is hellishly annoying. And yes, the frenetic ADD energy on display is clearly targeting generations younger than us GenX-ers who were only able to mainline John Carpenter flicks on VHS. But Winter and his team pull off a refreshing move. Instead of adding to the found footage slog, Winter steers into the camp. Once that happens, Deadstream becomes the 21st century descendant of Evil Dead II.
As that shift occurs, Shawn is no longer selling but trying to survive. This gives his high-strung character an actual narrative to project. He even gets the chance to be a hero… when he isn’t shrieking like a little girly-man. As the action and jump scares and horror of it all increases, the flatscreen streaming voyage is actually enhanced. Shawn succeeds in sharing all that he is witnessing. This becomes refreshing and – shockingly! – fun. The practical effects work and the gore is more silly than scary.
Deadstream is far from perfect, and is more annoying than not, but is successful in throwing a little life into the horror stream.