Friday, May 19, 2023

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Film: Deadstream
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

I don’t tend to like found footage and found footage-style films that much. I don’t love shaky cam in general, and a lot of found footage features the sort of shaky cam footage that I find people really hard to watch—people running and the camera bouncing around. There are exceptions, of course. I loved [•REC], by way of example. I went into Deadstream with a basic idea of the plot, but not really understanding that this was going to be not exactly found footage, but very much shot in the same style.

We are going to start by being introduced to Shawn Ruddy (co-author/co-director Joseph Winter). Shawn is sort of a YouTube version of the show Jackass (and in the context of the movie, YouTube is replaced by something called LivVid). The conceit of his channel is that he does stunts specifically based on overcoming his fears. We see a couple of examples and then discover that Shawn has been demonetized for some racially and otherwise insensitive stunts.

Things pick back up six months after his demonetization. Shawn is back with a new sponsor and a new stunt. He claims to be terrified of ghosts, and is going to therefore spend a night in the most haunted house he can find—or at least the most haunted house he can get access to. He arrives at the house and does a few things to make sure he can’t go back on his intent to stay the night—he tosses the spark plugs from his car into the woods, breaks into the house, and locks himself in. He also tells the viewers of his livestream about the history of the house while he sets up cameras with motion detectors. His rules are that he has to investigate any sounds that he hears and can’t leave, or face giving up all of the money (which he desperately needs) that he hopes to make.

Deadstream is a horror movie, so it’s not going to be a surprise when strange things start happening in the house. Shapes and movement are picked up on the motion cameras, and as Shawn explores the house, he finds more and more that is upsetting and that links back to the stories about the house. Much of this connects back to the original occupant of the house, a woman with a lot in common with Emily Dickinson and who allegedly hanged herself on the staircase.

Because Deadstream would be incredibly boring and frustrating if we spent 88 minutes watching one guy run around screaming (and that happens a hell of a lot anyway), we’re going to need a second character. This second character is Chrissy (Melanie Stone), a fan of Shawn’s who has found out where he is livestreaming from and breaks into the house to be a part of the show. Shawn takes a poll of his viewers and they overwhelmingly support her staying, and so she becomes a part of that will continue to happen over the course of the night.

Deadstream is a great idea for a found footage-style film. It connects to the idea of idiots on the internet doing whatever they are told to do by their followers for likes, clout, and (of course) money. The issue that I had with this film is that a substantial part of it features Shawn running around screaming. There’s a lot of screaming. That’s almost entirely realistic in terms of how someone would react in this situation, but it still gets very old very quickly.

What works here is how well Deadstream walks the line between horror and comedy. There are some really good jump scares in places and a few genuinely scary moments. However, a lot of the scares and other moments have a good deal of comedy in them as well. Parts of this are reminiscent in good ways of the original Evil Dead series, and especially Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. This is surely intentional, and it’s a rare case where a film wants to be compared to the Raimi classics and manages to pull it off with some accuracy.

I have to say that when I discovered that this was going to be shot in a found footage style, I was a lot less enthusiastic about watching. It’s better than that, though, and instead my lack of enthusiasm became attributed to having to spend time with a character who debases himself of internet clout. Then again, watching terrible things happen to that guy is its own satisfying reward.

Why to watch Deadstream: It’s a genuinely good idea for a found footage-style film.
Why not to watch: Because spending this much time with an influencer is torture.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, but you do get to see this one attacked by evil things, so there's that.

  2. That definitely sounds like a film Gen Z would love. I'm glad your low expectations helped at least!

    1. This is very much Gen-Z, and for anyone in that generation who loves horror, this is a guaranteed win.