‘Deadstream’ Is A Nasty and Hilarious Second-Screen Horror Featuring An Annoying Influencer and One Nasty Ghost [SXSW 2022]

Deadstream SXSW

If there’s been a theme for 2022 festival releases, it’s tackling the age of the influencer. We live in a time where live streamers, YouTubers, and Instagram users with that perfect aesthetic are providing a huge chunk of our daily content. And no matter the promises of authenticity in their work, it’s all a performance of some kind. Some are more obvious than others in their curated persona, which is delicious material for horror filmmakers delving into this new digital world. Such is the case with Vanessa and Joseph Winter’s second screen horror Deadstream, a delightfully gory and hilarious look at a disgraced YouTuber trying to regain his cred. Too bad a demonic ghost has other plans.

Shawn, a disgraced YouTuber whose transgressions are slowly revealed throughout the films runtime, is finally back. Known for his over-the-top, borderline-offensive content, he decides to livestream a night spent in a supposedly haunted house. He opens his stream hocking merch, which includes a nice little reference to The Blair Witch Project, then launches into the night’s plans. He must investigate any paranormal activity at the risk of losing his sponsorship dollars. Typical found footage horror setup.

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Well it quickly falls apart as the ghosts waste no time making their presence known. While there is one main ghost who orchestrates the chaos, there are several ghosts, like the Man in the Corner. Think Thir13en Ghosts vibes but they’re running amok in a rundown house. Deadstream unfolds in real time as the central ghost unveils her plan to take Shawn’s soul to build her own following but for her poetry. Typical poet. 

Shawn is absolutely brutalized as ghosts and other absolutely wild creatures pummel him, all captured live. Bones are broken, flesh is ripped, and blood is spilled everywhere (almost entirely Shawn’s). He’s being punished for his hubris which is admittedly rather satisfying. Shawn’s not a character we really want to sympathize with; he’s crass, obviously performing for his audience and overall unbearable. And thankfully the Winters never really try to get us to fully empathize and cheer for him. Sure he’s given dimension, but he’s not really our protagonist. It all boils down to two selfish figures trying to win in a battle for attention. And having one of those figures be a ghost is pitch perfect.

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The Winters have penned a script that knows how to do horror comedy well, weaving in and out of the two elements in a way that would make Sam Raimi proud. At one point, Shawn says “we’re in the paranormal g-spot” with such sincerity you may not catch it at first. These lines, uttered as if they’re part of our typical lexicon, are central to Deadstream comedy. Such ridiculous phrases emulate influencer lingo to the extreme and it is truly hilarious writing. And while it could easily fall into cringey territory, the Winters are able to use these one-liners sparingly and effectively to keep Shawn from becoming a total farce (even though he is still utterly infuriating). They strike a unique tone not typically seen in found footage and it’s a breath of fresh air. 

Commentary aside, Deadstream is just plain fun. An annoying influencer is out through the ringer. A demonic ghost strives for fame. She has ghost followers she forces to listen to her poetry. What’s not to love?

Deadstream is the Evil Dead 2 gore fest through the lens of found footage which is no easy feat. The Winters strike the delicate balance between poking fun at their protagonist/anti-hero and delivering genuine scares paired with killer practical effects. It’s absolutely ridiculous and swings for the fences, pulling not punches against the strange universe of YouTube celebrity. Deadstream proves that found footage is alive, well, and still a wholly original subgenre perfect for dissecting our new digital landscape.



‘Deadstream’ proves that found footage is alive, well, and still a wholly original subgenre perfect for dissecting our new digital landscape.



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