Deadstream - New Release Review
Director: Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter
Starring: Joseph Winter, Melanie Stone, Jason K. Wixom, Marty Collins
Written by: Vanessa Winter, Joseph Winter
Produced by: Jared Cook, Melanie Stone, Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter
Cinematography by: Jared Cook
Original Score by: Joseph Winter
A disgraced internet personality attempts to win back his followers by livestreaming one night alone in a haunted house. But when he accidentally pisses off a vengeful spirit, his big comeback event becomes a real-time fight for his life.
If you thought the found footage sub-genre was dead and buried then you are irrefutably mistaken. Rob Savage has knocked it out of the park twice in a row with Shudder Original 'Host' and the even more insane 'DASHCAM' from earlier this year. And now husband and wife team Joseph and Vanessa Winter deliver yet another over the top, chaotic social media influenced found footage flick that you'll have to see to believe.
Shawn Ruddy, a reprehensible Youtuber and self professed "social media influencer" has been "cancelled" for initiating one too many horribly, immoral stunts all for the sake of his audience and his social media status. But he is back with a vengeance and the first destination on his comeback adventure he wants to tick off is an old, abandoned haunted house. Shawn has plans to livestream from the house and investigate anything paranormal. Surely a recipe for disaster right?
Shawn, being a tech nerd, has landed at the infamous house with multiple cameras, tablets, a laptop and everything else he needs to perform a successful ghost-hunting mission. He just didn't plan on being joined by anyone, or anything else.
Co-writer and co-director Joseph Winter plays the part of the lead and it's really difficult to describe just how hard and fast he goes. There's no phoning it in here on the set of 'Deadstream' and my appreciation of his commitment to the role really pushed the film up a notch for me. He truly goes on a journey and the dedication to his performance is exemplary.
The comparisons to 'DASHCAM' are difficult to ignore. Like, the two films weirdly very similar. Not sure if that's just a coincidence of if maybe both filmmakers know each other and challenged each other to make the craziest social media driven found footage film they could think of. Like Annie, Shawn is a repulsive live-streamer who clearly gives zero fucks about his actions and has gone beyond all ethical boundaries for the love of "likes". He's a bit more likeable than Annie though. Both films also use the live-feed user comments section to help drive (and reveal) parts of the story itself as it happens. And both have some obvious commentary about today's obsession with the internet and how social media has really taken over society and all our lives. This one is a little more on the nose when it comes to the recent celebrity "cancellations". The two would work extremely well as a late night drive-in double-bill.
And it's super obvious that both Savage and the Winters are HUGE fans of 'The Evil Dead'. I would admit that 'Deadstream' leans into the Raimi space a bit more for obvious reasons. For one, the notoriously haunted house works as a surrogate for the cabin in the woods. The make-up and special effects are very reminiscent of the original 'Evil Dead' franchise and without giving away any spoilers, I was almost certain Ted Raimi had shown up at one point as one of the house's evil occupants. I won't say anymore than that.
I'm not entirely sure how much was improvised by Joseph Winter but based on his performance and the general feeling of how things play out, I'd imagine the script that he was working from had a lot of white space. It takes a little while for things to kick off but when they eventually do there's no going back.
One of the defining attributes about 'Deadstream' is that while it absolutely is a comedy horror, the comedic elements never overburden the horror elements. There really is a perfect balance. Joseph Winter plays Shawn a bit like a whiney, entitled little bitch whose recent demonetisation of his channel has hit him for six and now when he is introduced to a very different type of demon-etisation, much of the initial humour spawns from his reactions to every little creak from a floorboard and silhouette from a coat stand. Joseph Winter's falsetto-like squeals get more stridullus as the film progresses and his interactions with the comments section (who jeer him on and rip him to shreds in equal measures) are hilarious. The comedy is quite physical later on in the film. There's a great fight scene that felt like it was taken out of that little Linda Blair demon possession film, what's it called again. Oh yeah 'Repossessed'. But when the horror begins to surface there are some really effective jump scares too and every inch of the set pieces are grimy and bloody and just absolutely disgusting.
'Deadstream' was a huge surprise and one that I genuinely didn't think I would enjoy as much as I did. Get your popcorn at the ready folks.
- Gavin Logan
'Deadstream' received its International Premiere at FrightFest 2022 on August 27th and will arrive on Shudder on October 6th