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REVIEW: ‘Deadstream’ Delights in Its Reimagining of the Found Footage Film

Credit: Jared Cook / Shudder / SXSW

We’re living in a tough timeline for found footage films. And internet personalities. The former can be cause for eyerolls in the horror unappreciative, the latter cause for web chatter that outstays its welcome in the news cycle.

Thus, it’s a pleasure to report that ‘Deadstream’ instills in its audience all the right kinds of fear — that of ancient curses, vengeful ghosts, and something called the Wheel of Stupid Things. It’s goofy, it’s charming, it’s scary. It’s a house of horrors worth spending time in. It also confirms what we already knew: that found footage continues to rock.

The ill-fated footage, of course, belongs to Shawn “Ready” (Joseph Winter, also co-director and writer alongside Vanessa Winter), a disgraced internet personality. Historically, he’d gained followers by throwing marshmallows at cops and pulling silly stunts, but after going too far with one, he’s looking for a comeback with a big, spooky livestream in an abandoned house that’s said to be home to the spirit of a woman named Mildred. He’s done his research, is terrified, and has “had the nervous poops all week.”

Credit: Shudder

The filmmakers have offered up to us (and the prospective ghosts) an easy target, and in many ways the perfect guy to haunt. Shawn’s a guy who did a bad thing and needs to learn his lesson, even if it is in the most terrifying way possible. The simplest of movie formulas say there’s no way he’s going in that house without there being a recitation of an old incantation, or some loud, disembodied knocks, or the appearance of a dead person dripping in rotted flesh. And to our delight, we’re given those in all of their practical effect glory.

‘Deadstream’’s strength lies in cleverly stirring up the formula. The livestream audience — of which we are a part — is an added element, a creative fixture that is used as anything but a gimmick. Shawn’s audience is the third character of the film, chiming in via video messages and livechat love and hate. Shawn’s audience is smart, resourceful, and offers tips, though they sort of don’t believe what they’re seeing is real.

Credit: Shudder

There’s a moment in which Shawn takes his eyes off the chat to take a pee break, but we’re privy to the back and forth on the chat — his fans are warning him that there’s a ghost in the hallway! ‘Deadstream’ might just be pointing to the element of schadenfreude that fuels the internet-fan relationship. We see him, we see the chat, we see the ghost. It’s dramatic irony for the influencer age, and we delight in knowing something Shawn doesn’t.

It’s indeed lucky for us as outsiders that this is a guy who listens to no one. When Shawn makes the revelation that the undead Mildred is a poet who derives her power from stealing the souls of those who recite her poems, he instantly understands her need for attention. To his own devices, he flails about as he faces a neverending barrage of evil forces.

His audience, on the other hand, can log off at any point, leaving Shawn amongst the lifeless people desperate for attention. The night’s our delight, and his ultimate horror story.

‘Deadstream’ is now streaming on Shudder.


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REVIEW: ‘Deadstream’ Delights in Its Reimagining of the Found Footage Film