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Content to Die for


Deadstream is a hilarious parody of the internet's most unwanted: YouTubers.



Feb 2, 2024


Some ‘victims’ in horror are anything but. The trope of establishing a character who is so reprehensible or annoying that they make the audience long for their demise is ever-present in the genre, á la Franklin from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) or Max from I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). Deadstream runs with this convention as it sets its sights on one of the most irritating archetypes in contemporary internet life: YouTubers.


Written and directed by Vanessa Winter and Joseph Winter, Deadstream follows Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter), a disgraced YouTube personality. Desperate to make a comeback, Shawn sets out to live-stream his overnight stay in a haunted house. Shawn's comeback event becomes a fight for his life after he accidentally unleashes a vengeful spirit.


Courtesy of Shudder

Like some of his real-life counterparts, Shawn is the type of YouTuber that seems to live on another planet free of the rules that confine the rest of us. He is fake, self-centered, and loathsome, but somehow successful (or was) despite of these negatives. Winter’s caricature of Shawn nails these attributes so well that the audience would be forgiven for forgetting he is riffing on YouTubers and isn’t one himself. Winter's sell his performance so well that it would not be unexpected if Shawn were to scream “remember to like, subscribe, and tell my beneficiaries what you think in the comments below,” as he is being dragged off to hell.

How Shawn deals with his predicament is uproarious and unsettling. Shawn's obsession to regain his fame makes him oblivious to the dangers threatening his life. The absurdity of this disconnection makes the terrifying moments in the film, which there are many, land with satisfaction; Shawn goes from self-absorbed dipshit to shrieking final girl in the time it take to snap a finger off a dried up corpse. Everytime Shawn barely escapes his doom, he reverts to concerns about his numbers like the whole thing didn't happen.

As with some of his real-world counterparts, there is truly only one thing that matters to Shawn. If no one is watching, liking, or commenting Shawn may as well be dead, so sure, a reanimated corpse trying to eat your face off is scary, but a drop in subscribers is clearly the more existential threat. It is hilarious to watch, but it is also the kind of dissonance that can make a YouTuber think of a Japanese suicide forest as possible content.

Winter’s performance is complemented Deadstream's writing. The tropes about YouTubers are recognizable make the absurdity of the plot plausible, in spite of the supernatural background. Shawn's banter with the forces of evil and the live-stream chat (let's be honest, they are really one in the same) drives the film’s pacing, delivering a constant stream of laughter and thrills. The audience's morbid fascination with watching Shawn, both on screen and in the theater, critiques the interest that drives the internet’s content. It asks whether we truly love these creators as people or if it is all just destructive schadenfreude after all.


Courtesy of Shudder

The setting and other devices help further the immersion. Death Manor, as Shawn dubs the house he investigates, is unsettling enough to make him appear that much more in contrast with reality. The live-stream chat lavishes Shawn with the admiration he seeks, all the while goading him towards his oblivion. The clever use of action cameras (i.e. GoPros which are very popular among the content creation crowd) combines the YouTuber and found footage motifs effortlessly.


This all makes Deadstream is a standout viewing experience, blending the worst of the internet with found footage horror to create a memorable film. The Winters deliver a frightful and hilariously entertaining critique of contemporary social media culture despite it being the first time they have teamed up to direct. Deadstream is an exceptionally strong debut and builds anticipation for what comes next.

Note: A previous version of this review appeared on on 8 Jan 2023.

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