Apparently a lot of people don’t like Internet personalities. Just in the last few years, several horror movies have taken shots at various aspects of Internet and social media culture. From last week’s Sissy to The Seed to Tragedy Girls, horror has increased shifted its gaze onto the pitfalls of interactive digital media. To date, however, the results have been pretty mixed. But Shudder’s latest release looks to follow on the critical success Sissy found just last week. After premiering at the South by Southwest Festival earlier this year, found-footage horror Deadstream makes it streaming debut and the critical response has been glowing.
Disgraced Internet personality and streamer Shawn Ruddy finally has his platform back and is monetized again. But Shawn needs to win back fans and sponsors. His plan to win back viewers is to spend a night locked inside a dilapidated abandoned house known as ‘Death Manor’. And Ruddy’s rules are simple – he has to investigate anything that remotely is paranormal. But once he’s locked himself inside ‘Death Manor’ things quickly escalate far past anything Shawn could have imagined. With no way out, Shawn’s desperation for Internet fame may come with an unimaginable price.
Deadstream Channels the Spirit of 80s Horror-Comedies with a Social Media Twist
There’s two different movies in Deadstream. And maybe it’s not fair to say they’re two very different movies. From its opening scene, co-writer and directors Joseph and Vanessa Winter have a lot of fun with their movie’s premise, poking fun at both the format and the subject. The movie opens with a title card reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project before the camera pulls back and reveals Shawn holding up the card himself. That scene is pretty indicative of everything that follows. And for the next 30 minutes or so, Deadstream plays like a silly light horror comedy that’s comfortable riffing on found footage and haunted house tropes.
And there’s plenty of bodily fluids spilling out across the screen.
Once the horror elements more fully kick in, however, Deadstream goes full over-the-top horror comedy. While there’s plenty of jump scares, the Winters focus on a high-octane giddy approach to the subject that most recalls The Evil Dead franchise. And there’s plenty of bodily fluids spilling out across the screen. By and large, Deadstream is only a mildly scary movie. But it’s a fun movie that revels in pushing boundaries and rarely conforms to expectations. Sometimes the jokes fall flat or feel garishly stretched. However, this is often just the nature of this sort of movie. Overall, Deadstorm feels like the sort of horror movie that fans will increasingly appreciate.
Deadstream Mostly Overcomes the Limitations of an Unlikable Protagonist
Like other social media horror movies, Deadstream has something of an uphill battle. No offence to influencers and Internet personalities, but they’re not nearly as relatable to audiences as they may hope. So this is a movie that has to get audiences to care a bit about a character who isn’t particularly likable. As disgraced streamer Shawn Ruddy, Winter – who’s pulling triple duty here – manages to invest some likably goofy charm into the character. Unlike another recent social media-infused horror movie, Dashcam, our ‘Wrath of Shawn’ protagonist isn’t completely reprehensible. Though he’s shallow and often oblivious, Winter plays the character as more an idiot than an outright bad person.
So this is a movie that has to get audiences to care a bit about a character who isn’t particularly likable.
Though it’s mostly a one-person show, Melanie Stone brings a lot of fun energy to the movie. Astute horror fans will figure out her role pretty fast. Nevertheless, Stone’s a treat to watch on screen. While Deadstream also does a good job dunking on Internet personalities, it doesn’t have much to say. This isn’t necessarily a complaint or limitation. Not every horror movie needs to have a cutting subtext. And Deadstream is clearly having fun and wants audiences to have fun. But the movie and Shawn Ruddy as a character so perfectly encapsulate many of the problems with influencers and social media personalities. One can’t help but feel there was a bit of a missed opportunity here.
Deadstream Fun Enough To Overcome Any Minor Quibbles
Here’s a horror movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. What Deadstream delivers is just pure horror fun that comes close – though slightly misses – Evil Dead and other 80s B-movie classics. Plenty of bodily fluids are expelled, there’s several decent scares, and practical effects abound. Though there isn’t necessarily a clever subtext, like other recent horror movies, Deadstream takes a clear shot across the bow at Internet personalities. And Winter may do too good of a job playing the obnoxious influencer as he’s occasionally a bit much to take. Nonetheless, Shudder has once again platformed a wildly entertaining alternative to what you’ll find in theaters.