So, big confession—I love video game horror movies. It probably stems from my inability to play them as a functional human person. Something about the enveloped atmosphere makes a game’s protagonist an extension of myself and indistinguishable from my brain. If my character is in trouble, I feel like I’m in trouble and, as a result, scream like a small child. I’ve chronicled this slightly in my Resident Evil VII piece, but I feel it bears repeating now as I discuss Livescreamers.
Every once in a while, you come across a film that more than exceeds your expectations. For me, at the start of the pandemic, that was Michelle Iannantuono’s Livescream. It was a straightforward idea of a video game streamer whose top viewers begin disappearing as he plays through a creepy supernatural indie game. The film is led effortlessly with a fantastic performance by a monologuing Gunner Willis. It feels a lot like Unfriended: Dark Web or Rob Savage’s Host with a video game component. Especially Host in terms of dealing with isolation, but premiering two years before Host’s release. There are references in its slate of custom games to Doom, PT, Earthbound, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Resident Evil, and more throughout the movie.
This week, Michelle Iannantuono launched an Indiegogo campaign for the sequel, Livescreamers, that will turn the single streamer aesthetic into a multi-player-palooza of death and chaos. The press release states, “The film is inspired by opportunistic toxicity in the online gaming sphere, and how content creation turns both fans and creators into monsters.”
In a Washington Post article by Noah Smith from 2019, Sam Haberern details his first-hand account of how harrowing that toxicity can be, saying, “I felt almost unsafe in my own home, which is not a feeling I like to get from playing Xbox Live.” The quote is in response to the death threats Haberern received after a night of playing Call of Duty. When Haberern decided to call it a night at 3 am, another gamer posted his name, address, and phone number to an unsatisfied party chat. When his house phone and his mother’s cellphone began ringing, the horror became very real. Specifically, when a message appeared on his television asking why he wasn’t picking up the phone. While Haberern’s account isn’t something Livescreamers is necessarily based on, this example shows you what Iannantuono intends to shed light on.
Iannantuono has made herself a champion of video game-inspired movies, writing and directing a fan film for the game Detroit: Become Human called Detroit: Evolution, as well as her Livescream films. Though the game was a massive success for David Cage and game studio Quantic Dream, fans have felt let down in the wake of the controversy surrounding statements of former employees against the company. Cage’s “toxic corporate culture, management with inappropriate words and attitudes, under-considered employees, overwhelming workloads and questionable contractual practices.” Given the industry’s culture and this initial synopsis, it’ll be impressive to see how high up the chain Livescreamers goes. However, the concept of a game that kills people can easily draw comparisons on business cultures that work people to death.
Livescreamers has already started casting and will feature the talents of Michael Smallwood (Halloween Kills) as a gamer trying to reconnect with his audience after withdrawing in the wake of a traumatic experience. Smallwood is joined by Lukas Hassel (Slapface) as a streamer making bold choices to keep his floundering channel afloat. Jillian Geurts (Hell House LLC 2), Christopher Trindade (Detroit Evolution), Coby C. Oram, Evan Michael Pearce, Maddox Julien Slide, Anna Lin, and Neoma Sanchez round out the cast.
Perks for the Livescreamers Indiegogo campaign include Blu-rays, cast polaroid photos, adding your picture to the film, and naming a character. If you’d like to see the movie that started it all, Livescream is available for purchase on VOD through Amazon or at the sweet rental price of only ninety-nine pennies. If physical media is more your style, check out the OctopunkMedia shop for Blu-Rays and additional goodies.