It wasn’t until hours after watching that I got the pun from the title of this film. It’s called Deadstream. It’s about a livestreamer. I am slow tonight, I guess.
I’d heard buzz that this was quite a fun one, and boy did it deliver. But I think it’s better to go in blind and not know what the antagonist is so you can be fully immersed in the B-movie fun. Otherwise, SPOILERS after this jump…
Deadstream, directed by Joseph Winter and Jessica Winter, stars the former as Shawn Ruddy, a livestreamer who is every bit as annoying as his name suggests. He’s been in the shit after an at-first undisclosed mis-step that almost got him cancelled, and after an apology and some time-out on monetisation, he decides to stream himself live spending the night in an allegedly haunted abandoned house because he’s afraid of ghosts. He arrives thoroughly prepared with multiple cameras, iPads and a laptop (though seemingly no phone?), along with various occult paraphernalia like holy water, garlic and a ouija board. He’s even gone one step further and tosses the spark plugs from his car into the nearby woods (!) and padlocks himself in the house once inside and throws the key down a vent (!!), all to make sure he doesn’t chicken out. But as he’s fart-arsing around the house, he soon suspects he may not be alone – and not in a good way (as if there’s any other way of not being alone in a scary decrepit house).
The initial set-up is immediately compelling: Winter is by turns engaging and (aptly) irritating as Ruddy, and it’s a smart storytelling choice to reveal his fuck-up later on after we’ve built up some sympathy for this arsehole. As the tale progresses, its B-movie sensibilities unfold with such humour and self-awareness that it’s never a tell of the film’s obviously very low budget. There’s definitely a heavy Raimi influence, but also a bit of a pastiche on found-footage darlings like Blair Witch in which the protagonists make questionable decisions and/or are unmatched. Ruddy deliberately makes terrible, awful, stupid decisions, despite having the internet literally acting as donors of important information (and also encouraging said stupid decisions), but within the framework of the livestream, every stupid decision makes sense because he’s doing it for views. Moreover, his streamer-y ego is so inflated that he thinks he can fight back (and why not? He’s got garlic!) against the unwelcome visitors, who feel like a cross between Evil Dead ghouls and the spectres from the ’90s 13 Ghosts (kudos to the make-up team, too).
There’s some dark humour peppered throughout, as you, the viewer, become an additional character of sorts through cheering and jeering Ruddy in his antics, and the sporadic pop-up of user comments skewers the sometimes-perversity of the voyeuristic nature of livestreaming. I think this is the best use of the tech/platform in a horror film because it feels so naturally ingrained, but the crisp sound and clear video keeps the humour afloat and stops it from feeling too snuff-y (much like Be My Cat: A Film for Anne did).
Not quite hitting 90 minutes, this never drags despite it being largely a one-person film, but making the protagonist a successful livestreamer means we get better sound and audio quality and a screen presence desperate to entertain, and a solid reason for someone to always keep filming (cameras mounted everywhere, on his head, on his shoulder, even on a stick of jerky at one point), and the balance between humour, tension and scares is always on point. Definitely a film to watch in a group, in the cinema, or just home alone with your lights off. Safe to say that, even though my house is far nicer than this one, I ran upstairs. Job well done, Winters.