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Diablo Joe reviews Deadstream

Posted in Diablo Joe Reviews by Neal at 06:09, Oct 13 2022

review by Diablo Joe

now playing on Shudder


Found footage films have been a horror staple since "The Blair Witch" burst onto the scene decades ago. "Paranormal Activity," "REC," and others have become massive franchises, often flying in the face of criticism of "shaky-cam" nausea and general over-reliance on the trope. "Deadstream," coming to Shudder, has a slightly different tack on the whole genre, presenting a supposed real-time, you-are-the-live-viewing-audience, Internet-age twist on found footage. It also differs from the aforementioned films in that its tongue is firmly in its cheek throughout.

Shawn is a disgraced yesterday's news Internet influencer seeking to regain the viewership of his heyday with a stunt that involves staying overnight in one of the most haunted houses in existence. Setting up cameras throughout the house and mounted about his body, he livestreams his experience as he goes from apprehensively nervous semi-skeptic to terrified believer because the legacy of ghosts and evil happenings contained in the old home wants to make Shawn a part of their history.

"Deadstream's" Joseph Winter dons many a hat for this production. Besides staring at Shawn and handling the film's music score, he is, with Vanessa Winter, the film's co-director, co-writer, and co-editor. With so many creative roles and probably near total dominance of the movie's screen time, the success of "Deadstream" seems to rest firmly on his shoulders. Aside from the ghosts terrorizing him, it's pretty much a one-man show. If you like his performance as Shawn, then you'll probably enjoy the picture overall. It's a daring chore to take on, and Winter is equally hit and miss on this count. Shawn is not meant to be a likable character, and he's a combination of douchey Internet media celeb and spineless brat. At times, his histrionics can be a bit much. Winter completely inhabits the role, but his ninny-shrieking can sometimes be wearying. It's just a hair away from being a wholly annoying performance, but thankfully, the hits scored are more potent than the misses.

As Winter dominates the film's narrative, so does his face dominate the screen time. The film trades the often hyper-kinetic (and often headache-inducing) hand-held camera work that some audiences find off-putting in found footage films for rigidly framed, but still mobile, body cams. Winter's wide-eyed, mouth-agape face is locked firmly within the frame by the cameras mounted to an elaborate rig about his person. It's a mixed blessing. Some may find the swirling, ever-rotating background just as disorienting. But most will find that the tight shots, often looking up Winters's nose quite a bit, are a bit limiting, visually. Brief bits where viewers of the stream chime in with information they have googled don't bring enough variety to make a difference. One of the advantages of the wide-angle surveillance camera footage of the "Paranormal Activity" films is that so much is allowed to happen in the frame, both left to right and fore and back. Here, that freedom is relegated to the cameras Shawn has mounted throughout the house, and at times, one wishes they had been better utilized.

As the film enters its third act, it’s evident that the Winters and their company have begun aiming for an “Evil Dead” sense of slapstick humor. The action becomes more ridiculous and over-the-top; the evil ghosts are cheekier and sassier. But the Winters are no Sam Raimi in their directorial skills, and Joseph Winter is a long way from the comedic virtuosity and appeal of Bruce Campbell (and Shawn is no Ash Williams!). But they pull it off enough that it doesn’t fall flat, and, combined with some enjoyable and effective make-up effects, it’s the shot in the arm the film needs. It effectively keeps the movie on the road and out of the ditches.

“Deadstream” is innocuous enough (and short enough) to make it, if by no means a must-see, then a pleasant popcorn diversion. Solidly crafted, it scores shocks, scares, and laughs more often than not. For those horror lovers who may be seeking something that will fill an evening with icky and gooey, if perhaps a bit insubstantial, fun, many will find “Deadstream” a reasonably satisfying pick.

This devil of a reviewer gives “Deadstream 2.5 out of 5 imps.

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