By Brendan Graham
Social media’s influence on horror content has been quite strong, especially when it comes to live streaming, and that also plays quite well within the found footage section of horror. With influencer culture, we are exposed to some great ideas and new ways of thinking. We are also unfortunately exposed to some of the worst people humanity has to offer sometimes too, as we saw with the controversial film ‘Dashcam’ although I honestly couldn’t stand that movie. I really wanted a film with a ‘youtuber’ who wasn’t completely horrid, had the potential to grow as a person but still had to go through an ordeal to get there and I was pleasantly surprised that I got what I wanted with DEADSTREAM, a new haunted house found footage experience that will be joining the Shudder family this week.
In the film, we are introduced to Shawn (Joseph Winter), a recently disgraced livestreamer/content creator who is trying to win back his fans (and sponsors) by toning down his highly controversial content. He’s decided that he’s going to stay the night in a notoriously haunted house, and he’s going to stream the whole thing for his fans and sponsors, completing challenges along the way as well as preventing himself from chickening out. Upon arriving, he’s already incredibly spooked but insistent that he’s going to complete his mission and keep his viewer count up. In order to keep his audience entertained, he starts becoming more reckless and in doing so, has awakened something truly evil and his evening has changed from entertainment to a real time fight for his life.
DEADSTREAM works well at establishing our connection to our main character and what he does for a living (on top of showing off his poor moral character with the challenges he’s completed). The film wastes no time getting us to the haunted house, and it also doesn’t beat around the bush with its own form of meta humor. It throws horror movie jokes and YouTuber shade all over the place and it’s incredibly witty. Joseph Winter is really good at playing the loveable jerk, who shrieks at every loud noise but also begins to show his true colors once more, and refuses to take accountability for anything. The movie would not work at all without his performance, and it’s a real joy watching him perform his wacky schtick. The creature designs are quite well done, especially for the low budget they were working with and I was equally impressed with some of the ideas they were able to execute with the whole livestream setup. It’s a well tuned experience that had a lot of careful planning, and it’s paced quite excellently.
Is it funny? It is quite comical. Is it scary? There are some genuinely good jump scare moments and tension throughout. Does it also stumble over its own narrative comparing the livestreamer and the spirit haunting the house? Also yes, it does feel a bit clumsy. There is a strong connection in behavior between Shawn and the ghost that does get a bit overplayed but it never gets dull nor does it get too preachy. The filmmakers here stick to the slapstick, over the top nature of this experience and the consistency really shows. Also quite impressive to me, is that it builds the experience so well over time especially with the gross out effects.
DEADSTREAM doesn’t reinvent the found footage genre, but it knows what works and it runs with it. With a strongly performed protagonist, fun gross out gags, and some genuinely spooky surprises, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser for a lot of horror fans. Shudder has been knocking it out of the park with these acquisitions, and I can’t wait to see what they release next.
DEADSTREAM is available to stream Thursday October 6th only on Shudder