Livescream Mashes-Up Found Footage and Gaming Horror

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I came upon an independent movie that piqued my interest. I was watching a lot of programming on Twitch at the time, from Rifftrax monster movies to Resident Evil: Village preview gameplay, in anticipation of the game. Meanwhile, I caught wind of a film that used the live streaming format to tell its story. While I thought the film Livescream would be a more obnoxious film on par with Stay Alive, Gamebox 1.0, or Hellraiser: Hellworld, I was pleasantly surprised by how well utilized the found footage premise was in this capacity. Last week, I told you how much I love horror movies about gaming when I introduced the Livescreamers Indiegogo campaign as a part of our news coverage, but I thought maybe I should review the film to convey why I think it’s a project worth backing.  

Scott is shown in the corner above his viewer chat and Livescream welcomes him to the game.

As I previously mentioned, Livescream isn’t exceptionally ostentatious, presenting a well-rounded story about a gamer named Scott (Gunner Willis), who amasses an online following playing horror titles for his viewers. We only see Scott in the tiny square block in the top left-hand corner for the short 68-minute film, and he’s pretty much the only person speaking throughout the film. Don’t let that fool you. Plenty of online comments come rolling in for Scott to interact with, which keeps the dialogue from getting stale or becoming absent. As Livescream gets rolling, the commenters develop characteristics. Some are honest and heartfelt, others repugnant. In this way, writer-director Michelle Iannantuono serves the audience with a true-to-life streaming experience, and it never feels as though Scott is alone on screen. 

What makes Livescream work so well for me is how likable Scott is, and Gunner Willis is superb. Since ninety percent of the movie is the audience reacting to Scott and what he sees during his online gaming session, you sometimes forget he’s on-screen all alone. Scott monologues through the film by answering his followers and reacting to the gameplay in real-time. You may not know his name, but you’ve likely seen Willis in bit parts on shows like Ozark, Vice Principals, and The Resident. In Livescream, Willis exudes talent, imbuing Scott’s nice-guy persona with authenticity, promoting upcoming charity streams, and revealing a genuine tone for his community’s well-being as the sh*t starts hitting the fan. In a genre that so easily stereotypes social media influencers as vapid, soulless embodiments of capitalism, it was a joy to see human elements on display and wanting to root for a good guy.  

Scott reads the text from a Japanese style top-down game in Livescream

It takes the audience less than ten minutes to understand what’s going on. Scott begins his livestream by bragging about the underground indie game he just found on a game jam site—a developer site that lets users play and help develop their games. The 8-bit rendering of the Livescream title brings to mind the Undertale logo, but Livescream’s nightmare mode is definitely not an “E for Everyone” title. The game warns Scott right away that he only has five lives and must play carefully without informing him of the consequences should he lose a life.  

After the first level, a dungeon-esque maze that feels inspired by Doom 3 and Alan Wake, Scott is informed by a viewer that something in their house is making the same noise as the monster in Scott’s game. After a moment, the viewer leaves the chat making it clear that Scott and his followers are the targets of a very sick game. The film hits its stride as it starts openly attacking Scott’s viewers, and they witness a murder during the third level of the game. As Scott continues his stream, he’s warned not to abandon the game, or he will die. The play-or-die angle is a familiar supernatural concept that we’ve seen mainly in the Saw, Truth or Dare, and Escape Room features. Nevertheless, Livescream does this with enough originality and a healthy burst of character development that it’s a genuinely fun experience that doesn’t wear out its welcome, providing an original twist on the found footage genre.  

First finding the film while scrolling the depths of genre films at the start of the pandemic, the isolation aspect seemed to hit close to home, particularly as lockdown kept us in virtual spaces over Zoom, Discord, and Twitch. I had also just downloaded a ton of developer games from an bundle and, at the end of the movie, started reconsidering installing those games. Not so much on the supernatural front that Livescream leans into, but on that Unfriended: Dark Web concept that starts the film. Even if the film hadn’t leaned into the paranormal, there’s still a lesson to be learned about how accessible information is through poor security and suspect applications. 

A paper that says "AVOID THE SIRENS" in Livescream

For such a simple idea, the tension is palpable. Any mistake Scott makes becomes the difference between life and death, and, as his viewers start dying, it creates real heartfelt moments between characters that have never even met. These scenes felt aptly appropriate sitting in lockdown cut off from friends and family during my first viewing nearly two years ago. Watching the film again to review this last week, it still holds up.

There are a ton of gaming nods throughout Livescream from the viewer names like “Knottydawg” or “Bugthesda” to the wonderfully animated original game experiences Scott has to play through. Having previously mentioned the inspirations of Livescream’s first level, others include references to PT, Slender: The Eight Pages, Resident Evil, Five Night’s at Freddy’s, and Earthbound, and those were just the ones that I caught. Michelle Iannantuono has badass gaming knowledge and built all the games Scott plays throughout the film in Unreal Engine. There’s also the measure of her seamless direction in the movie. Bright lights on Scott’s stream are shown simultaneously on Scott’s face, not to mention that Scott’s feed never looks edited. Seventy minutes is pretty long for a single take, so it seems unlikely that this is the case, so I also have to make a note of the multi-faceted director’s superior editing skills. 

If you’ve been looking for a creepy video game film that doesn’t make you cringe when Hollywood bastardizes your favorite gaming moments, Livescream is an excellent choice. Combining the indie horror gaming scene with Markiplier’s 3 Scary Games setup, the film is a lot of fun to watch. Livescream is currently available to rent or purchase through Amazon, and it’s only $.99 for a rental. If physical media is more your style, you can purchase a copy of the film through Octopunk’s merch store. And if you like the movie and want to see the ante upped for the sequel, consider contributing to the Livescreamers campaign on Indiegogo.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

Book cover for Extasia

Extasia Explains What Happens When the Witches Live Deliciously

Hidden Horror in Games, Part 3: Cute but Deadly