Deadstream (2022)

Vanessa Winter, Joseph Winter

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Starring: Joseph Winter, Melanie Stone, Jason K. Wixom, Pat Barnett, Marty Collins, Perla Lacayo

Disgraced and demonetized, internet personality Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter) tries winning back fans by live-streaming himself facing his biggest fear - spending a night alone in a haunted house. When he accidentally unleashes a vengeful spirit, the big comeback event transforms into a real-time fight for survival and social relevance as Shawn faces off with the sinister spirit of the house and her powerful following.

By highlighting the leads desperation, co-writers/directors Vanessa and Joseph Winter have gotten ahead of often-repeated criticisms in a fun way. Shawn intends to regain his viewership and appease his sponsors, so sets a rule that he must investigate anything unusual he sees or hears. Failure to do so will forfeit his sponsors payments. This gives a genuine reason for the lead to do so many dumb things, including locking himself inside the haunted house and throwing away the key, showing a knowingly witty approach to the genre.

The old-school "haunted house" set-up is effectively blended with modern technology, as infrared cameras and wearable tech keeps the event streaming while giving an in-universe reason for the alternating camera angles. The live-feed is often interrupted to add to the story, as media uncovers the house's past while the motion sensors cut into the feed to provide spine-chilling moments. The best inclusions are the live comments, as viewer interaction provides laughs and helpful tips to help Shawn unpack the situation.

In the lead role, Winter effectively captures the characters fame-hungry desperation. As the reasons for his banning as gradually revealed, it's clear he only cares about his image and finances instead of understanding what he did wrong, and Shawn is made to reckon with that throughout the night. The desire to see him punished mounts up as he does increasingly stupid things that are in-character, and it's a blast to see him in the middle of such horrors. Despite this, there's an endearing quality to the performance which ensures it isn't a chore to spend time with Shawn, without excusing his actions and attitudes.

The character is well-prepared for many eventualities, although he's surprised when self-confessed fan Chrissy appears. Excited to share time with the internet personality, she becomes part of the livestream and adapts well to the unfolding scenario. Key to the character is Melanie Stone's terrific performance, delivering excellent laughs as the character repeatedly gets on Shawn's nerves.

While the comedic elements remain effective, it never gets in the way of the pulse-pounding terrors. A nerve-shredding scene involving a tablet used within a hallway highlights how well modern technology is utilized, while the simplicity of an unsettling stillness makes the slightest sound seem deafening. The fantastic practical effects help sell the horrors of what nightmares occur, pulling no punches as it goes to gross lengths.

What the Winters have created is a film about the lengths taken to make ones art known, while also highlighting the many uses for duct tape. The excellent sense of timing ensures the humour and horror are both effective, resulting in the perfect spooky viewing. If Ghostwatch had a baby with Death of a Vlogger which was adopted by Evil Dead II, this would be the batshit concoction.

Deadstream is available on Shudder from 6th October