Deadstream (2022) by Joseph and Vanessa Winter captures the old-school thrills that horror films used to guarantee. No matter how far-fetched or unbelievable the story gets, Deadstream (2022) always keeps returning to the right track thanks to the boatloads of fresh ideas. Aside from the entertainment value, the movie also makes curious points about the culture of influencers, as well as the meaning of survival in the outside-of-online world.
“This is Shawn Ruddy, promising you the most cinematic experience in the history of live streaming!” – screeches the protagonist of Deadstream (2022) as he leans over the camera before breaking into a semi-collapsed manor that’s rumored to be haunted. Earlier, we learn that Shawn, an irritating influencer who clearly missed the casting to the Jackass crew, has been recently deprived of his celebrity status. As a means of last resort, he goes way out of his comfort zone and promises his followers to provide them with ultimate content – raw footage of how he tries to survive 24 hours in a highly unwelcoming place.
Truth be told, the rich history of found footage horrors can be interpreted as both a curse and a blessing for filmmakers such as the duo behind Deadstream (2022). Hardly any film these days can avoid the beaten paths, and skewing away from them doesn’t necessarily translate into success. Thus, it’s only natural that Deadstream (2022) bears resemblance to some of the best-known found-footage horrors. The modernized version of a hand-held camera – now remindful of GoPro’s point of view – still brings the likes of REC (2007) and Blair Witch Project (1999) to mind. The closest to Deadstream (2022) is, however, Grave Encounters (2011), where a reality show crew locked themselves in an abandoned psychiatric ward.
Despite the many other films I could potentially mention, Joseph and Vanessa Winter make their very own blend here. This isn’t a haunted-house cliche, nor another boring idea of a killing app or ghosts that magically figured out how to slit throats via the Internet. Deadstream (2022) points in the direction of Internet celebrities, who build fortunes on making stupid shit that so many of us either can’t comprehend – or openly criticize. Seventeen million people follow a dude that throws eggs at things and destroys stuff over at the How To Basic channel. Most popular YouTubers are people who record themselves playing games. That says a lot about the state of current online entertainment, doesn’t it? But Deadstream (2022) finds particular pleasure in mocking Logan Paul and reminiscing his disgusting trip to Japan which has reverberated in media concerning the lengths these blackguard celebrities would go in pursuit of fame and pushing the envelope at all cost.
The same happens for Deadstream’s (2022) protagonist. Shawn’s very much in line with this principle of pushing the boundary, which – as we learn during the stream – has been the reason for his fall-from-grace in the past. He’s an amalgamation of those over-the-top personalities. Superbly bothersome, Shawn’s a true energy vampire (not the Mark Proksch-kind from What We Do In The Shadows (2019-) though) that radiates with silliness and show-off attitude. Nobody can root for the guy, as vividly expressed in the live chat that we peek at on the right-hand side of the stream. The anonymous fans, who follow Shawn’s cinematic experience, are his cruel audience who wish for blood and extreme imagery, hence forcing Shawn to do riskier things inside the house. Even when the requests are a borderline threat to their beloved celebrity’s life, the bigger threat for Shawn is to lose their attention – the true currency in the digitized world. Arguably, that’s the modern gladiator – fighting for the love of the masses against what either he or they come up with.
Aside from his character traits though, Shawn represents the terrifying problem of turning off the basic instincts that allowed our ancestors to survive. One trope that all horror fans adore is how characters always make the step towards the ominous unknown. Surely, that’s the guarantee of blood-chilling scares, watched with the comfort of experiencing adrenaline boosts without actually living the nightmare. Yet Deadstream (2022) always circles back to the idea that Shawn’s asking for the grave consequences.
How scary is Deadstream (2022)?
As per what actually happens in the house, the choices made by the filmmakers reinstated my once-firm belief that practical effects in horror films reign over CGI. Deadstream (2022) offers plenty of gory images, nasty monsters and ghastly creatures creeping or shrieking in the dark corridors of the manor. Any encounter is ornamented with delirious screams from our host and the fact that the show must go on. I’ll refrain from revealing too much – including the role played by Vanessa Winter – because the filmmakers packed plenty of surprising twists. That way, Deadstream (2022) manages to combine the comedic performance of Joseph Winter with some serious horror bits, and the combination provides an awesome thrills-packed ride.