From the film’s IMDB.com citation:
“A disgraced internet personality attempts to win back his followers by livestreaming one night alone in a haunted house. But when he accidentally pisses of a vengeful spirit, his big comeback event becomes a real-time fight for his life.”
Mark my words: the best utilization of the ‘real-time format’ remains Fox TV’s stellar action series 24, a serial that pitted government agent Jack Bauer often in pursuit of bad guys seeking to bring down the United States of America … and that show is not in any jeopardy of having its crown snatched away by a major motion picture … even one that’s as charming and well done as Deadstream … if I may say so myself.
Essentially, what you have here is a found footage film in the guise of a live-streamed event: Shawn Ruddy (played winning by Joseph Winter) is a modern-age ‘jackass’ who makes his reputation by doing stupid things captured on video and streamed to his internet audience. The premise here begins with the fact that Shawn – fallen from his virtual perch due to antics that caused harm to another individual and disrepute to his sponsors – is trying to start over. By hook or by crook, he’s staging his return to greatness by spending the night locked inside a fabled haunted house, all the while streaming the event to his worldwide audience watching, clicking, and chatting.
The difference between me and most critics?
Well – for starters – I’m actually on record as being a reasonably long-time supporter of the found footage film. I’ll admit that, granted, they can certainly have more than a fair share of visual blemishes that negatively impact the overall experience, but from the standpoint of considering it a viable form of storytelling I tend to appreciate the roughness of the whole affair. It adds a greater air of authenticity to the experience, and – if audiences can get through any measure of discomfort or distraction – I think they’re suitably rewarded for putting up with an unconventional performance. Sometimes, the finale is even quite shocking.
That said, I’ll also concede that, no, there isn’t all that much fresh to the format these days. What storytellers Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter accomplish with Deadstream has been done before – to a degree – and, yes, it definitely falls well within the intellectual fabric that is the found footage tapestry. What I do, however, believe is fabulous is that they’ve upped the ante, adding in what’s become the added visual trickery that goes hand-in-hand with livestreaming. There are sidebars of observers’ comments. There are the visual floating ‘hearts’ and ‘likes’ whenever an audience members contributes in point-and-click fashion. There are even quick video responses sent in by viewers – a component necessary to expand on this particular kind of storytelling – and it’s all delivered at the frenetic pace of a story-in-progress. Everything looks and – even better – feels authentic to the experience, making Deadstream both a work within a particular subgenre of motion pictures as well as an attempt to clearly transcend it for the modern era.
For what it’s worth: I’ve watched probably more than most who chat about film online these days, and I didn’t find the shakycam approach all that distracting in this flick. More than a fair amount of footage is rendered in close-up – the whole livestreaming thing kinda/sorta relies on watching the participant’s expressions, and in that regard Deadstream stays true to the practice – and, hence, you avoid some of the usual ill effects. But because this one really embraces a comic sensibility – Shawn, like him or hate him, is a celebrity in his own world of misfits – I think it rises above any of the usual complaints with an infectiousness that deserves to be discovered.
Deadstream (2022) was produced by Winterspectre Entertainment, Jared R Cook Productions, and Stonehaven Entertainment. Based on promotional materials I’ve been provided, the film is available both theatrically and on-Demand in multiple markets. As for the technical specifications? As this is intended to resemble a livestream event, there’s more than a fair amount of associated camera trickery – herky/jerky/shaky camera work – so be warned. Some find this effect a bit off-putting, but I’ve honestly enjoyed it more often than not.
I’m perfectly fine going on record and saying that while there may not be anything all that fresh with Deadstream the flick still bristles with a measure of creativity and even originality in how the storytellers both approach the subject matter, capture it on film, and deliver it for mass consumption. Yes – as many have probably already opined – it’s basically one of those ‘found footage format’ presentations; but it’s so wonderfully well packaged for the modern era I’d still argue it’s worth the price of admission … or maybe even a ‘like’ or a ‘share’? (Snicker snicker) A bit long, true, but still very well done.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Shudder provided me with complimentary streaming access to Deadstream (2022) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.