Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 18: Deadstream (2022)

What kind of horror movie countdown would this be without at least one found footage horror movie? So how about three!

My intention was to just watch Deadstream, but once I did, I remembered two others I had been meaning to watch for a few years, and I ended up watching Spree and Dashcam (not this one) the same day. And while I don't necessarily recommend doing that, it was fun seeing how all three dealt with the same theme of social media and "living online."

I'll come right out and say Deadstream is the best and most enjoyable of the three. Imagine a (better) Evil Dead sequel as a found footage horror movie, and you've got Deadstream. It was written, produced, and directed by the husband and wife team of Joseph and Vanessa Winter, with Joseph Winter also starring as Shawn Ruddy. Shawn, a YouTuber known for taking on dares and performing pranks, was recently "cancelled," losing all sponsorships, and attempts to make a comeback by spending the night in a supposedly haunted and abandoned house.

Shawn places several motion activated cameras in and around the house, and has several bodycams as well, thus allowing the film to include "editing" while Shawn's livestream (deadstream, livestream, get it??) is taking place, and this is perhaps the film's best conceit, as it allows for a more dynamic multi-camera experience than many found footage horror films. 

You probably have to enjoy the character of Shawn to get real enjoyment from Deadstream, but I found Winter's performance hilarious, resulting in one of this year's funniest entries in the countdown.

Neither Spree nor Dashcam end up being nearly as enjoyable because of their central characters. In Spree, Joe Keery (best known for playing Steve on Stranger Things) plays Kurt Kunkle, a young man desperate for online fame who decides to livestream a killing spree as he poisons passengers in his rideshare (which is called "Spree" instead of Uber or Lyft). Kurt is such a pathetic character, with preposterous goals, but the intended satire just never really hits. (I will say, however, that seeing Lala Kent from Vanderpump Rules, and Ariana Grande's brother, Frankie, get murdered is kind of...satisfying. Applause for that casting.)

Dashcam centers on Annie, a singer and songwriter with a channel she streams from her car, where she creates songs live, based on comments from her followers. It's set during the pandemic, and Annie is probably the least likable protagonist of any horror movie in recent years, unless you happen to agree with her anti-vax, conspiracy fueled views, in which case, you may indeed root for her. But when I found out that Annie Hardy is basically playing herself in the movie, it just confused me. We're supposed to be repulsed by her, right? Right??

I really liked director Rob Savage's first found footage horror movie, Host, but this one just fell flat for me, and it suffers from probably the biggest sin of found footage horror: characters who never seem to drop the damn camera, so half of the film is just a shaky cam blur. I found the whole film so annoying (and gross) that I couldn't even begin to tell you if it even makes any sense. Found footage horror can still be fun, (see above!) but Dashcam is definitely not.

I watched Dashcam and Spree on Hulu, and Deadstream on Shudder.

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