Spooky season is once again upon us, and what better way to get the proverbial ball rolling than with some light-hearted horror comedy from the married directorial duo Joseph and Vanessa Winter. Deadstream centres on Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter), a disgraced, and more importantly, demonetised, internet personality whose vainglorious attempts at a comeback see him challenge himself to stay in an apparently haunted house, and live stream the entire event. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, things do not go as planned and Ruddy’s initial pre-arranged scares are quickly overshadowed when he awakens a vengeful evil spirit, and the real horror commences.
Teaming with all the archetypal motifs of similar tonal mashups, Deadstream knows that the line it walks is a fine one, but to the Winters’ credit, even in its more manic moments nothing feels out of place. This is mostly due to the lead performance from Joseph Winters as Shawn, whose dim-witted and self-aggrandising bravado is deliciously cut to ribbons at each and every opportunity. Watching the troll get trolled is never not fun, and Winters sells Ruddy’s obnoxious, odious air with aplomb.
Filled with more horror tropes and cliches than you can shake a blood-stained stick at, Deadstream not only relies on it’s not-so-subtle call backs to Hall of Fame horror movies like The Exorcist and The Evil Dead 2, it relishes the opportunity to twist their influence in new and modern ways. Perhaps the most salient, if a little generous, comparison is that of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, in which a group of indie filmmakers seek out some alleged unknown evil and hope to capture it on film. The found footage phenomenon captured the zeitgeist perfectly and spawned a series of imposter films that tried to piggyback on its success, and ‘say something’ with equal purpose. Deadstream is definitely part of this cabal, and while its central figure is often subject to gross-out frights and self-imposed blunders, neither Ruddy or the Winters are saying anything new at all.
With that in mind, for those who find the genre fusion of Horror/Comedy at all trite, Deadstream may not be for you. Sure, there are moments of laugh out loud schadenfreude, but in this instance they’re few and far between, and what’s more, when Deadstream leans into its more traditionally ‘scary’ moments, they don’t quite hit their target. Despite the well-known maxim that Horror and Comedy share the same build-up of tension and relief, the proof is in the pudding; there are only a handful of Horror/Comedies that function equally on both fronts, and unfortunately Deadstream is not one of them, at least not consistently. It’s not all doom and gloom however, for the diehard horror lovers out there, there are a plethora of easter-eggs and references to pick apart and dissect, as well as some truly shocking moments of close-to-the-bone horror that’ll set fans recoiling in their seats.
Deadstream is available now on Shudder