Dir. Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Annoyingly smug YouTuber with a gimmick. Check. A live stream of their antics. Check. All building up to a final half hour of orchestrated chaos. Check. This sounds a lot like Rob Savage's DASHCAM, but here taking the action into a haunted house rather than a car.
DEATHSTREAM sees Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter) try to redeem his YouTube personality by taking on his fear of ghosts. Staying in a haunted house, he streams the night away and fights for his life to survive until the morning.
There's plenty to get excited about and the film boasts some of the best visual scares of the year. Comparisons to Sam Raimi's THE EVIL DEAD series are just as the hauntings emergence heavily reminiscent of the Deadites carrying their grotesque features and humour too. Shawn's night is visited by an escalating presence and one managed well between what he can see and what the cameras capture, balancing suspense and visceral terror.
It's then a travesty that the central narrative is around Ruddy who is one of the most obnoxious and death-deserved people on screen. Like any terrible Marvel movie, any real drama and suspense is superseded by the cracking of a joke or a tonal shift from terror to action whipping the audience into a frenzy of disbelief. Unlike the earlier mentioned DASHCAM, where the film turn to become full horror, DEADSTREAM hovers and slides between horror and humour so quick and turbulently that it's hard to keep up with what emotions should be felt.
In addition, as one commenter puts it, the mythology is messed up, one moment the ghosts can be seen, the next they are dispatched with a needle and more physical, in its moments DEADSTREAM is edge of your seat stuff, then on reflection of its quieter moments it becomes problematic.
As far as debuts go, Joseph and Vanessa Winter have delivered a heavy blow to modern horror but while at times grotesquely terrifying, others brain numbingly stupid, it's too disconnected to fully appreciate the whole experience without feeling dumbfounded by the suspension of disbelief so often asked of us. DEADSTREAM is certainly worth seeing (the later and even drunker/higher, the better) even if it won't have the lasting legacy it perhaps could have had with a better, and more likable protagonist.