I’m as shocked as you are that I am reviewing Deadstream. Found footage is not my thing, and yet here we are, not only reviewing a found footage film but sheepishly admitting it worked like gangbusters on me. All credit to Joseph Winter, who along with his wife Vanessa Winter wrote and directed a film that manages to simultaneously nail and skewer the YouTuber culture, be actually funny, and call out to some classic horror comedies (HUGE shades of Evil Dead 2 here, in the best way) in a refreshing way. I am down with the Deadstream.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: Shawn Ruddy is trying to claw his way back into corporate sponsorship and viewers after falling into disgrace for his livestream show where he faces his fears. His solution? Spend a night in the haunted Pratt house, where young Mildred Pratt hung herself in the 1800s, and he’s gonna livestream the whole thing. That may not have been the best idea, as the dunce whose only concern is growing followers and getting clicks awakens the evil in the house and is stuck having to figure his way out of a house he locked himself into, and the weird monsters who are out make his livestream…a DEADSTREAM!
This whole thing falls apart if your lead doesn’t work, and Winters makes sure that 1) you realize what a completely self-absorbed idiot Shawn is and 2) you still care about him enough to root for him to get out of the mess he put himself in. It helps that this is reinforced by the constant chat stream he constantly pulls up, where the viewers are essentially bouncing back and forth the same way as we the audience are. The whole YouTube/streaming aspect is done really well, subtly adding to the comedy even as it worked as the scaffolding for the found footage. I could have spent an additional 20 minutes watching him create and name specific cameras, or finding new ways to insert his cans of Thunderbolt Sports Drink into a shot.
Despite its found footage label, the film Deadstream most takes advantage of is without a doubt is Evil Dead 2. From the great practical demon makeup for the ghosts in the house to the swooping camera moves to Shawn getting his ass beaten repeatedly (there are more direct and specific nods I won’t get into here), the Winters team owes a huge debt to Raimi and Campbell, but it’s more homage than ripoff. The film also manages to pack a nice punch for its ending, giving us a great glimpse into all the horrors created in the house and now unleased thanks to Shawn.
I’m reluctant to continue comparing Deadstream to other films, because ultimately this things can definitely stand on its own merits, and makes me excited to see what the Winters will do next (apparently they have a segment in the forthcoming V/H/S/99). If you’re undecided or – like me – don’t really care for the found footage genre, check out the trailer and see if you get the same kick I did. There’s wicked fun to be had here.