In Deadstream, internet personality/streamer Shawn Ruddy is attempting to revive his online career following a period of disruption to his channel, Wrath of Shawn. A significant event has taken place in his recent past, which has caused Shawn to lose sponsorship deals, and he wants to rectify this.
After working his way through a temporary ban on social media platforms, Shawn is back online just in time for Halloween. And because this is the spooky season, and Shawn is desperate to rebuild his reputation (and increase his revenue), he decides to create a special event to celebrate his return.
This event sees Shawn spend an evening at a remote, abandoned, and dilapidated house. The house – which Shawn refers to as ‘Death Manor’ – is supposedly haunted, having been the site of various deaths, including a suicide.
Keen to make this evening as memorable and as authentic as possible, Shawn goes to the house alone, locks himself in the building, and sets up his streaming equipment. He then spends the night live streaming to his subscribers, providing them with a detailed history of the supposed events that once occurred inside, before it was boarded up and left to rot.
But as Shawn soon discovers, it’s not a good idea to go exploring abandoned buildings to dredge up the past. His presence has consequences and his live stream might wake the dead!
Written and directed by Vanessa and Joseph Winter, Deadstream stars Joseph Winter, Melanie Stone, and Jason Wixom. The film is a computer screen/found footage comedy-horror, which plays like a haunted house picture, and is brand-new to Shudder.
Deadstream is smart, creepy, at times humorous, and also kind of bonkers. The movie starts off a bit like The Blair Witch Project (1999), morphs into Ghostwatch (1992), and then somehow ends up becoming The Evil Dead (1981).
It is one of those movies that is a lot of fun from the off-set, but it’s not quite clear just how much fun it is going to be. And then the movie hits the halfway point, and suddenly things begin to ramp up.
From midway onward, Deadstream switches gears, its satirical humour becomes a lot more tongue-in-cheek, and the whole thing starts to go a bit gonzo. It doesn’t descend into utter chaos, but there’s a significant shift in the film’s tone and pace, as well as its playfulness, and from here it doesn’t back down.
At this point, the subtle scares are no longer subtle, the truth behind the abandoned house is brought to the surface, and blood (as well as a bucket of piss) is chucked at the screen. The film essentially ups the gross factor, moves into a new place entirely, and becomes even better than it was to begin with.
The end result is either something you will love, or something you will be a little unsure of. However, for me, Deadstream is not only a horror to champion, it is also another one of Shudder’s gems, joining the likes of Host (2020) and Speak No Evil (2022) as must-watch horror movies on the subscription service.
What makes Deadstream stand out from the crowd, is just how clever it is. Writers/directors Vanessa and Joseph Winter have looked at the current ‘influencer-led’ landscape, have studied the work of various YouTubers and social media stars, and have used this as the inspiration and direction for their work.
The Winter duo have then found a way to inject some satire into their story, some interesting commentary about monetisation, and have crammed in various references to online pranks, first-person shooters, and the music of John Carpenter. Their approach is steeped in horror stories of the past, yet at the same time they have crafted a contemporary tale which will be instantly recognisable (and appealing) to the Twitch generation.
And it is this generation in particular who I believe will get a real blast out this film. In the same way that I LOVED the BBC’s horror-mockumentary, Ghostwatch back in 1992 (when I was just a nipper), I feel that Deadstream could have a similar power over the current crop of young horror fans.
I should point out that this film isn’t aimed at young audiences; Shudder have it rated as 18+, and rightly so. But when it comes to horror films, and their intended audience, age ratings never really deter those who plan to see them anyway and I expect this might be the case here.
Now, the Winters could have opted to play this film straight, and make it completely serious, but instead they decided to delve into the comedic realm to offer a little bit of lightness in this macabre tale. However, this lightness is all part of the fun, and largely revolves around a central performance from Joseph Winter, who takes on the role of Shawn Ruddy.
Winter plays the part perfectly, managing to make Shawn both ballsy and incredibly irritating. It’s not difficult to see why Shawn would choose to spend a night in an abandoned house, or convince himself this would be a consequence-free decision, and this means the story can move along quite nicely.
There’s a level of arrogance here in Shawn which is needed to sell this story, but at the same time taps into a persona that is often associated with some online streamers. I’m not saying this persona is reflective of all streamers – so, don’t you all come for me – but it is reflective of those who will do anything for money (and fame), and Winter captures this just right.
He also makes Shawn a bit of a caricature. This might be a little off-putting to some, but this approach to the character ultimately proves quite important, specifically during the back-half of the movie, when the film is trying to sell some of the slapstick moments.
And it is during this part of Deadstream where the film brings in some fun practical effects, a bit of gore, and some good ol’ fashioned Halloween horror. The aim of this film is to entertain, be it through comedy or terror, and the whole lot is thrust together to become a trick-or-treat-o-ramma!
Thanks to strong writing, excellent direction, and an understanding that horror can be both playful and creepy, Deadstream is a triumph. It is a delightfully dark movie, which wears its influences on its sleeve, yet has plenty to say and plenty to offer.
If you’re looking for a great slice of horror this Halloween, Deadstream is highly recommended. Turn off the lights, chuck your phone in the corner, and throw yourself into this streamer screamer.