Would you spend a night in a haunted house? Would you live stream the entire night in an attempt to salvage your online image and career? Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter) would! Shawn is a recently disgraced online streamer who is desperate to bring back viewers and reinvent himself.
Shawn locks himself into a creepy, abandoned house and it’s not long until all kinds of creepy stuff starts happening. Shawn’s humorous live-stream goes from funny to dangerous awfully fast, but can he survive the night?
Deadstream feels like a film that really shouldn’t work. An arrogant live-streamer taking on ghosts in a haunted house while screaming about not being a racist? I rolled my eyes so hard, I thought I had pulled a muscle in my head. Yet, everything in Deadstream works so well.
It’s funny, it’s entertaining and it’s less than 90 minutes with some fun practical effects and a bit of gore for good measure. In fact, Deadstream is exactly the type of film that goes on to become a cult classic, being played in sold-out auditoriums at midnight for years to come.
Perhaps it’s because from the very beginning Joseph Winter, who wrote and directed the film with Vanessa Winter and also plays Shawn, makes our protagonist so insufferable. Shawn deserves everything that is coming for him, but his complete vulnerability later on should be enough to bring you to his side. Shawn goes through the wringer because he deserves to and we’re here to reap the rewards of that.
In the film’s best scene, Shawn screams at the camera that he isn’t sorry for what he did, he only posted the lengthy apology video because he had to. We never truly find out what Shawn did, although someone did end up in the hospital and he was ‘cancelled’ and de-monetised on his platforms after an ‘appalling’ stunt. This is where Deadstream could have gone terribly wrong, by trying to insist that Shawn deserves our sympathy, but the Winters are too smart to let their film get on Shawn’s side, morally at least.
Joseph Winter turns in a very entertaining performance as Shawn, who, quite frankly, is a joy to watch being tormented by the ghosts of the house. Because this is a found-footage film, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. The format gives you more intimate access to what is happening, up close, but at the same time, the film loses rhythm as it’s presented as if streamed live on the internet.
The script by the Winters is devilishly clever and fun. Deadstream is a film that prioritises entertainment over themes and rightfully so. It’s a very crowd pleasing film, one that’s best enjoyed with a packed audience. Unfortunately, that entertainment value also makes Deadstream a tad disposable. While it has a good villain in the ghastly Mildred, she’s also generic and boring. All in all, Deadstream is good but just a hair away from being great.