As content creation becomes one of the most sought-after jobs for younger people it makes sense there will be an influx of films, both horror, and non, surrounding the idea of content creation. These types of films have been steadily released for the past few years. Without a deep dive on Google, one of the first big influencer horror films I can think of is Cam, a look into a whole new view of identity theft. Films like Follow Her and Followers take this idea of content creation and find inventive ways to throw our content creators into a horrifying loop. Over the past few film festivals, I have covered is where I have really seen the majority of influencer horror, and from the looks of it, this subgenre is not going away anytime soon.
Like our very own Sean Parker, who covered this film for Fantasia 2022, the description of this gave me very heavy #chadgetstheaxe by Travis Bible vibes. Also, like Sean, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. With Found Footage [probably] being the subgenre with the most consistent output, not meaning it’s always good, you need to really do something different to stand out from the still pond water of indie Found Footage films. Before we get too into it one thought I had through watching Deadstream is how studios are pushing out less Found Footage. I mean there are still FF films coming out from studios, but at this point in time, it feels to me like the majority of FF are smaller releases.
Deadstream is written and directed by Joseph and Vanessa Winter, starring Joseph Winter. Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter) is a content creator who is a terrible amalgamation of Boonk Gang, The Dobre Bros, and ImJayStation. Trying to mend his image after being dropped from sponsors and getting demonetized from
YouTube LivVid, Shawn decides to do an overnight stint in the most haunted house in America (that he could film in). His mission statement for his channel is to go out and do, and film, the things in life that truly frighten him, stunts he would be too nervous or shy to do if he was not filming them.
Shawn tells us his biggest fear in life is ghosts, so what better place could pick? He also has a special caveat, if he hears or sees anything unusual, he must investigate it or, per his contract, will lose his sponsorship money. After arriving at the house Shawn removes the spark plugs from his car and locks himself inside the house by throwing the key away. And just like that, it is time to start… THE DEADSTREAM.
There is a lot that I think makes Deadstream very successful, and one personal reason. For people who are not deep into YouTube culture staged versions of videos like this really excelled in the algorithm heavily in the ’15s to around ’19. One of the biggest YouTubers who did things like this, usually called the 3 AM Challenge, was ImJayStation. ImJayStation is, also, a disgraced YouTuber who faked communication with Mac Miller and XXXTentacion from beyond the grave shortly after their respective deaths, though the video that got him bopped off YouTube was when he faked his girlfriend’s death for views. ImJayStation’s awful acting and even worse improvisation mirror Shawn Ruddy, the character, not Joseph Winter, in so many ways. I was obsessed with commentary videos, and the originals themselves, dissecting these people like JayStation, and Boonk, so this film is right up my alley on just that aspect alone.
Joseph Winter’s performance is exaggerated, comical, and honestly? I would wager to say perfect. Winter’s performance will most likely be a huge detractor for a lot of people, as it is a very caricaturized showcasing of paranormal YouTubers. His giddy screams, his careful attempts to say frick instead of fuck, and his interactions with his chat just work so well. Whereas Spree had a similar character in Joe Keery, he was not able to command the audience in any capacity due to a complete lack of charisma, or care for the project, while Winter seems like he really did his research for this role.
As with any Found Footage film what really matters are the scares and a need to keep the cameras rolling/the purpose of the cameras. Obviously setting the movie on the backdrop of a livestream gives the credence to have a camera rolling. The motion-activated GoPros act as a reason to cut away from Shawn, as he has programmed the stream to cut to any camera that has activity. On top of that Shawn has a watch that seamlessly allows him to switch between the two cameras attached to him. All of his cameras are connected to his iPad, allowing him to switch to whichever camera he sees fit. With the added caveat, as mentioned earlier, of being contractually obligated to check out anything he hears or sees takes that question of, “why would you go up the steps?” and gives it authenticity. Because you’re in a creepy house, why WOULD you go check out the sound in the basement?
I’ve talked ad nauseam about everything except the most important aspect of a genre film…the scares. Unfortunately for me, I watched this movie right before going to bed. As someone who is already plagued by consistent nightmares, that probably was not a good idea. To say my nightmares after watching this were more extreme than usual is a bit of an understatement. Though Shawn is the sole character in the house throughout the majority of the film, he does have a fan join him for a short amount of time. His isolation in the house ramps up the horror factor. From footsteps to doors opening and closing, the sound design plays a really heavy role in creating the dusty atmosphere. The only time I ever felt a single modicum of relief was when the second character enters.
On top of the horror are the slapstick element of Shawn and even some of the ghosts. Hey, get your finger out of my nose! There is quite a comedic element to this film, and I believe if this element was not in the film this would be in my top 10 scariest films; though I am thankful for it. I was beyond engaged and enthralled with this film and if it weren’t for the comedic elements I would have probably lost my mind. I would also be remiss to mention the spirit creature designs, they are horrifically well thought out and executed…just don’t want to say too much about them!
Deadstream has quickly become one of my top favorite films of the year, it’s funny, it’s terrifying, and it’s topical. The internet-based puns never seem out of place, and Winter gives an out-of-this-world performance. If there is a movie I love that the masses don’t I usually don’t care, but I truly hope people take kindly to this film. I can only imagine how elevated the experience would have been seeing this in a packed theatre. Deadstream will exclusively premiere on Shudder on Oct. 6th.
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