EntertainmentA Haunted House Comedy For The Livestreaming Age

A Haunted House Comedy For The Livestreaming Age [SXSW]

Maybe there’s more DNA between “Evil Dead” and “Deadstream” than I initially admitted. As Sam Raimi once baked slapstick gags into the possession horrors of “Evil Dead” (further in “Evil Dead II”), Joseph Winter makes a buffoon of his faux-enthusiastic, desperate for attention manbaby Shawn Ruddy. The way Shawn takes breaks from ghost hunting to answer chat users becomes a clever back-and-forth given so few outside character interactions — Shawn’s own rule is that he must investigate any ominous sound or oddity. Shawn’s fanbase loves reminding the quivering, whining personality that sponsors will bail if he flees. The Winters understand that straightforward horror is a tougher sell since their ghouls aren’t comparable to, say, 2001’s “Thir13en Ghosts” horde — comedy becomes a weapon that permits enjoyment of shoestring production designs. We’re allowed to belly-laugh even when Shawn’s paranormal pestering becomes bloody, life-threatening, and downright satanic.

Maybe my affection towards horror-comedies defines the film’s demographic because “Deadstream” is resilient in its indie aspirations, exposed seams and all. Computerized figures that drift past doorways aren’t million-dollar builds, nor are undead costumes Hollywood grade. I’m brought back to Adam Green’s “Digging Up The Marrow,” since creature designer Troy Larson and makeup artist Mikaela Kester impress via barebones creativity. Shawn’s standoffs with zombie law enforcement officers or Mildred Pratt’s decaying corpse benefit from sight gags like Shawn’s potato gun artillery or a particularly hilarious pants-off prank used against evil incarnate. Expecting immeasurable bouts of fear from “Deadstream” will spell disappointment, but that’s why stalker fangirl Chrissy (Melanie Stone has too much fun) appears at one point — to remind everyone, for the billionth time, that we’re supposed to laugh at the juvenilely stunted Shawn.

In short, “Deadstream” — or, to me, “The House The Burped Blood” — breaks the constraints of Screenlife filming methods with a boomstick’s blast. Joseph and Vanessa Winter’s pandemic project humorously shuns an obnoxious entertainer stuck within an ’80s creature feature, frequently with a sharpened wit because simplicity provides no distractions. One man against haters online, coming off a six-month cyber ban, awakening unknown demons with his self-recorded “Shawn Carpenter’s Halloween” soundtrack if that means his merch sales skyrocket. “Deadstream” is a cheekily chilling vlog-life satire that scores its shivers and smashes more than like buttons — I can’t wait to cram this one into my Halloween movie marathons as a goofball, gross-out, grim-but-gleeful crowd pleaser.

Slashfilm Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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