SXSW 2022: ‘Deadstream’ Reviewed – Thrilling Haunted House Survival For The Twitch Era

by Gary Catig

There is no shortage of people out there seeking their moment in the spotlight and the emergence of technology has flooded our screens with an endless supply of wannabes. The film Deadstream looks to address this aspect of society to update the classic found footage horror genre.

At the center of it all is disgraced YouTuber, Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter), who spends the evening in a haunted house and livestreams the experience. He begins as your typical internet star grasping at fame and relevance. As common with ghost hunting shows, he overreacts and exaggerates any misplaced noise for dramatic effect. However, as things become more real, Shawn undergoes a complete metamorphosis pulling the audience with him as he battles for his life.

Winter, Deadstream’s co-writer and co-director, excels in the role. He really sells the desperation not only as he faces his fears of the supernatural but also of being cancelled. Gradually, we learn about his scandalous stunt and see him finally coming to terms with the fallout. That coincides with his growth and bravery turning you to his side and cheering him on.

The use of the live stream creates an immersive feeling. It seems fitting for those who always yell at the screen during scary movies because of the dumb decisions the protagonist makes. The comment section provides hints and helpful suggestions throughout and there is a level of absurdity when Shawn puts up a survey while in danger. But the toxicity of our digital culture is also on display. No matter how many fans are out there, the most impactful ones are the trolls. There are hurtful comments and it’s hard enough for our hero to manage the actual monsters attacking him.

From a filmmaking standpoint, Joseph and the other director and writer, Vanessa Winter (his wife), know how to craft a horror tale. There is an elaborate and creepy backstory behind the home that sets the tone early and a few unforeseen twists keep you on your toes. They can skilfully utilize strategic sounds and movements to get your heartbeat racing and they build upon scare after scare. What’s as impressive is their ability to interweave the comedy elements into the narrative achieving a nice balance.

Deadstream is equal parts laughs and scares resulting in a thrilling haunted house survival story for the Twitch era.

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