Shawn (Joseph Winter) was a very successful streamer. His shtick: doing things that he is deathly afraid of. But his last stream went very wrong and he had to disappear for a while. Now it’s time to attempt to come back – before he loses all of his followers and his sponsors. For his comeback strack, Shawn has spied out a haunted house in which he will lock himself for the night. But he soon finds that there are actual ghosts in the house. And they are none too pleased that he is there.
Deadstream is impressive because it manages to be both genuinely scary and genuinely funny. I had my doubts about watching it, simply because it started at midnight and I am an old, but it really paid off to stay.
The first half of the film – where Shawn sets up shop at the house and installs his cameras, is some of the most effective horror I have seen in a while. Tensions are high and I was thoroughly creeped out, despite the fact that there were also funny moments. Around the middle of the film, the tone switches, and the film becomes much more of a comedy, with a couple of scary moments, but focusing more on gore (with differing quality, I’d say). Surprisingly, both parts work equally well and I couldn’t say which half I’d prefer.
I was also quite taken with how the Winters used the streaming/social media aspect of it. We have seen our fair share of horror films about social media personalities/influencers already and usually people opt for some kind of moral message about the vacuity and narcissm of social media. And Shawn isn’t free of that, that’s for certain (and his “apology” for the “misstep” of his earlier stream that brought him so much trouble is absolutely spot-on persiflage of that). But this film isn’t a critical essay and refrains from judgement.
Instead the streaming is mostly there, it appears, to justify that there is video material/found footage they can make the film with in the first place. And that is an excellent explanation that doesn’t feel too stretched. Plus, it gives the audience an insight into the comments on and reactions to the stream – and the way this is executed absolutely adds to the story.
Joseph Winter is on screen practically the entire time (in addition to writing and directing together with his wife Vanessa Winter) and his acting is up for it, which I didn’t think it would be, to be honest. You can root for Shawn, even in his dickish moments. The ending didn’t make complete logical sense to me, but it doesn’t need to – it fits. It makes Deadstream an absolutely satisfying package altogether.
Summarizing: one of my festival highlights. Simply excellent.