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[SXSW ’22] ‘Deadstream’ review: Horror film will have audiences squealing in terror & delight

You will scream out loud.

Deadstream is a throwback horror movie that showcases – in some cases unintentionally – many things that are taken for granted. Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter, who also helped write and direct) is an internet personality who has suffered the worst indignity a livestreamer can face: he has been demonetized. Once the demonetization period ends, he decides to win back the love of the internet by livestreaming one night alone in a haunted house. 

The jump scare is a tried a true part of scary movies. Even when audiences know they are coming, the sudden jolt of fear adds to the viewing experience. Deadstream uses this technique to perfection. The movie is tense and atmospheric. Using motion detection cameras and a creepy haunted house, the film never allows anyone to get too comfortable. 

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The first jump scare always seems to be coming, yet Deadstream keeps faking the audience out. By the time it does happen, a false sense of security has been created. Yes, the surroundings are creepy, but there is nothing that is in your face. When it does finally occur, it is one of the most effective uses of the technique in years. (I was watching with a hardcore horror fan and she screamed out loud.) 

Along with the screams of terror will be the laughter. There is plenty of comedy horror to choose from but few reach the heights of Deadstream. Shawn is one of the most likable characters to grace a genre picture in quite a while. In what ends up being an indictment against YouTubers, Shawn is incredibly charismatic. There is no way he would make it on YouTube in real life. Where most internet stars seem to equate humor to screaming loudly and silly pranks, Shawn has a genuine charm to him. While he does have the “I can’t believe he did/said that!” aspect that influencers thrive on, he also has endearing qualities such as making his own soundtrack.

Was this planned as a comedy with horror aspects or vice versa?

He also gives the movie a lighthearted quality that is not often found in horror. Despite the different vibe surrounding Deadstream, it never gets too far away from the horror aspect. The film harkens back to the 1980s with some amazing creature effects that will lead to squeals of terror and delight. Possibly more impressive is the use of horror tropes. Circumstances like a car that will not start or being trapped in a haunted house are situations that fans of scary movies have come to accept with little explanation. Here, things are clearly explained in some of the funniest scenes in the movie. 

It would be interesting to hear the thought process behind the making of this film. Was it conceived as a comedy with horror aspects or vice-versa? While it would not be entirely correct to call this genre-bending, Deadstream resides in both worlds comfortably. The film is clever, scary, and silly and will end up being one of the highlights South by Southwest.

Deadstream makes it World Premiere at SXSW in the Midnighters section on March 11

overlook film festival
[SXSW ’22] ‘Deadstream’ review: Horror film will have audiences squealing in terror & delight
Deadstream
Horror movies like this do not come along often. It is silly, funny, and VERY scary. It also boasts the best jump scare in years.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Great lead performance from Winter
Excellent practical effects
Genuinely funny and scary
As is the case with most found footage/POV movies, there is some repetition
9.5
Great

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