Horror-comedies are a mixed bag, and most have an issue finding the perfect blend of laughs and genuine horror. Deadstream, now available on Shudder as part of their 61 Days of Halloween, has perfected the balance between the two, and as a result, it’s very enjoyable.
Deadstream premiered at the 2022 SXSW Festival, so most horror fans are at least familiar with it by name. It’s part “found footage” and part screenlife, but I found it to be unique to both of those horror sub-genres – mostly due to the tone switching from comedy to horror so easily.
Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter, who also wrote, produced and directed the film with his wife Vanessa) is a YouTuber and social media influencer who is trying to win back his viewers. It seems that Shawn did something to make himself a victim of today’s cancel culture, and when we see clips from previous episodes of his series The Wrath of Shawn, it’s easy to see how such a thing could happen.
The premise of his show is that he is committed to doing stupid (and often dangerous) things that he is afraid of. A couple of examples we see are “Human Popsicle”, which involves Shawn dogsledding in the snow while wearing only a Speedo and the “Baby Moses Challenge”, in which he navigates rapids in a baby bassinette while swaddled in a blanket and sucking a pacifier. The stunts are ridiculous, but they did make me laugh out loud, particularly since his challenges nearly always involve him screaming in terror like a six-year-old.
The “hero” of Deadstream is pretty much a man-baby.
There is no doubt about it, Shawn is immature and self-centered. But he think he has the perfect stunt in mind to win back his subscribers, and it involves himself livestreaming a solo investigation at Death Manor, which is a well known haunted house. He does this on Halloween, accompanied by his self-composed musical score, Shawn Carpenter’s Halloween, and a crude map of Death Manor’s layout that looks like it was drawn by a kindergartner.
Cameras are placed in multiple locations, including the room that is said to experience the most paranormal activity, and he has a tablet on which he can interact with his followers. Deadstream makes great use of the tablet, because every time he looks at it, there is a fast-moving stream of viewer’s comments, and sometimes videos in which helpful people try to give him advice on how to survive the night. It’s hard to read all of the comments, but they are funny, and, if you watch YouTubers, accurate.
Another fun prop is his “Wheel of Stupid Things To Do”, which includes ideas such as “Seance” and “Do Nothing.”
As seen through the cameras and Shawn’s own POV camera, Death Manor is indeed a spooky place, populated with multiple apparitions, old handwritten books of poetry and a page with a strange symbol drawn on it. Shawn handles the scary incidents in his usual manner, by shrieking and running, and we are caught in between laughing at his stupidity and screaming at the increasingly terrifying paranormal events going down.
Winter is great fun in this film, and his enthusiasm and high energy keep it moving fast and furious. And if you enjoy his performance and writing, you might be interested in seeing more of his and his wife’s work on the upcoming V/H/S/99.
The tone and style of Deadstream seem to be heavily influenced by Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic The Evil Dead, so that fits right into the horror/comedy wheelhouse. I really loved Deadstream, and plan to watch it again during this Halloween season. I suggest you do the same.
Are you a fan of comedy/horror, screenlife and found footage films? Tell us what you think about Deadstream in the comments section.