Written and directed by Vanessa and Joseph Winter, Deadstream is a real-time riot. With goopy practical effects, a bare-bones presentation, and a very intentionally acted lead (played by Joseph Winter), the film concocts a faux-livestream that turns from uneventful to unbelievable over the course of one night.
Leading the livestream is Shawn Ruddy (Winter), a recently disgraced social media star who’s gained his fame by performing a series of ridiculous challenges (including in-poor-taste tests such as “running from the cops” and “smuggled across the border”). With his grand return to the internet (after an apology video, naturally), Shawn has decided to take a spooky turn by spending the night in a supposedly haunted house. Of course, when a controversial personality is set loose in a house with a dark past, he’s bound to upset the spiritual balance.
We’ve seen a few social influencer horror films pop up over the last few years, but it’s a subgenre that’s kind of slid under the radar. With Sissy and Deadstream – both included in Fantasia Fest’s 2022 season – it’s got a bit of a resurgence, but the two films tackle this topic in very different ways.
Deadstream is a goofy, entertaining romp that throws Shawn around, forcing him to confront his demons (both personal and supernatural). Promising “the most cinematic experience in livestream history”, Shawn delivers just that. It feels kind of like Grave Encounters meets Evil Dead II, with plenty of slapstick comedy and some very active ghosts.
Winter’s performance is so very over-the-top that it’s actually perfect. It would almost be annoying, but it’s such a precise lampoon of online personalities that it becomes quite impressive. Everything done and said is a deliberate performance. There’s a set “character” that these personalities play, always focused on engagement for the sake of clicks, follows, and sponsors.
Shawn is a man who is always aware that he’s on camera. His regular interactions with his viewers serves a dual purpose as well; not only is he staying in his very specific character, but it’s also giving the audience a bit more to focus on than just one man with a camera (or set of cameras).
Everything in the film is orchestrated in a way to keep the plot moving and the audience tuned in. The illusion works; it’s believable (or at least entertaining) content. Winter’s comedic timing is excellent and his line delivery sells the online fantasy.
The proudly 100% practical creature effects and straightforward camerawork keep things simple and manageable for a low budget. The film is clever, well constructed, and puts a fun new twist on both the haunted house and found footage subgenres. Deadstream frolics in the puddle of its own absurdity, and has such a blast doing so, you can’t help but join in the fun.
Deadstream is part of Fantasia International Film Festival‘s 2022 season. For more on Fantasia 2022, click here to read an interview with the writer/director of Skinamarink, or for more influencer horror, check out our review of Sissy.
[Fantastic Fest] ‘Infested’ is Guaranteed to Make Audiences Squirm, Jump and Scream
It has been a while since spiders were effective in making folks lose their minds with fear in theaters. The last time I recall it being lose your mind suspenseful was with Arachnophobia. The latest from director, Sébastien Vaniček creates the same event cinema that Arachnophobia did when it was originally released.
Infested begins with a few individuals out in the middle of desert looking for exotic spiders under rocks. Once located, the spider is taken in a container to be sold to collectors.
Flash to Kaleb an individual absolutely obsessed with exotic pets. In fact, he has an illegal mini collection of them in his flat. Of course, Kaleb makes the desert spider a nice little home in a shoe box complete with cozy bits for the spider to relax. To his astonishment, the spider manages to escape from the box. It doesn’t take long to discover that this spider is deadly and it reproduces at alarming rates. Soon, the building is completely packed with them.
You know those little moments we all have had with unwelcome insects that come into our home. You know those instants right before we hit them with a broom or before we put a glass over them. Those little moments in which they suddenly launch at us or decide to run at the speed of light are what Infested does flawlessly. There are plenty of moments in which someone attempts to kill them with a broom, only to be shocked that the spider runs right up their arm and onto their face or neck. shudders
The residents of the building are also quarantined by the police who initially believe that there is a viral outbreak in the building. So, these unfortunate residents are stuck inside with tons of spiders moving freely in vents, corners and anywhere else you can think of. There are scenes in which you can see someone in the restroom washing their face/hands and also happen to see a whole lot of spiders crawling out of the vent behind them. The film is filled with plenty of big chilling moments like that which don’t let up.
The ensemble of characters is all brilliant. Each of them perfectly draws from the drama, comedy, and terror and makes that work in every beat of the film.
The film also plays on current tensions in the world between police states and people who attempt to speak out when in need of real help. The rock and a hard place architecture of the film is a perfect contrast.
In fact, once Kaleb and his neighbors decide they are locked inside, the chills and body count begin to rise as the spiders begin to grow and reproduce.
Infested is Arachnophobia meets a Safdie Brothers film such as Uncut Diamonds. Add the Safdie Brothers intense moments filled with characters talking over each other and shouting in fast-talking, anxiety-inducing conversations to a chilling environment filled with deadly spiders crawling all over people and you have Infested.
Infested is unnerving and seethes with second-to-second nail-biting terrors. This is the scariest time you are likely to have in a movie theater for a long time. If you didn’t have arachnophobia before watching Infested, you will after.
[Fantastic Fest] ‘What You Wish For’ Offers Up A Wicked Dish
I’m a huge fan of these decadent flavors of film. What You Wish For gives us exactly what we wish for by unleashing a razor-sharp film that is all about the rich and how much they can get away with and what insane things may transpire when they get bored. The result is something that is both disturbing and entirely crowd-pleasing.
What You Wish For stars Nick Stahl as Ryan a Chef who is invited by his friend Jack to spend some time in a beautiful, secluded rainforest home. Jack explains that his gig in life has become traveling to beautiful locations and preparing special dinners for collections of powerful rich people.
Once Ryan is brought into the same life as Jack, he quickly discovers that you better be careful what you wish for, and cooking for this collection of people isn’t what he expected… especially when it comes to what is on the menu. All of this sets up for a final act that is an edge-of-your-seat ride filled with just as many laughs as there is propulsive suspense.
Much like Hitchcock’s Rope, What You Wish For introduces the dangers by placing them in plain sight and then commences to have the characters move about them unaware. Of course, the audience knows of the hidden horrors making for a lean thrill ride.
It’s great to see Nick Stahl back on the big screen too. Stahl had a huge career in his youth. I’m much more interested in this phase of his career. Stahl perfectly embodies this character and is one of those dudes that you root for the entire time.
Nicholas Tomnay directs the absolute heck out of this film. Everything is precise and comes packed lean with all the fat cut off. Moving these characters around and creating the boiling pot for them to squirm and play in is absolutely a brilliant watch.
What You Wish For is a wicked, provocative thriller that is a cross-pollination of Hitchcock and Tales From the Crypt. Tomnay serves up a lean, mean dish that is impossible to pull away from. From start to finish it is a feast of vicious fun.
[Fantastic Fest] ‘Wake Up’ Turns a Home Furnishing Store into a Gory, Gen Z Activist Hunting Ground
You don’t usually think of certain Swedish home décor places to be ground zero for horror films. But, the latest from Turbo Kid directors, 1,2,3 return to once again embody the 1980s and the films we loved from the era. Wake Up places us in a cross-pollination of brutal slashers and big action set-piece films.
Wake Up is king at bringing on the unexpected and serving it up with a nice range of brutal and creative kills. For the most part, the entirety of the film is spent inside of a home décor establishment. One night a gang of GenZ activists decide to hide in the building past closing in order to vandalize the place to prove their cause of the week. Little do they know one of the security guards is like Jason Voorhees with Rambo like knowledge of handmade weapons and traps. It doesn’t take long for things to begin to get out of hand.
Once things take off Wake Up doesn’t let up for a second. It is filled with pulse-pounding thrills and plenty of inventive and gory kills. All of this takes place as these young folks are trying to get the hell out of the store alive, all while the unhinged security guard Kevin has filled the store with a ton of traps.
One scene, in particular, takes the horror cake award for being very gnarly and very cool. It takes place when the group of kids stumbles into a trap of Kevin’s. The kiddos are doused with a bunch of fluid. So, my horror encyclopedia of a brain thinks, it might be gas and that Kevin is going to have a Gen Z BBQ. But, Wake Up manages to surprise once again. It is revealed when the lights are all cut off and the kids are standing around in pitch black that you reveal the liquid was glow-in-the-dark paint. This lights Kevin’s prey up for him to see as he moves in the shadows. The effect is very cool looking and was done 100 percent practically by the awesome filmmaking team.
The team of directors behind Turbo Kid are also responsible for another trip back to 80s slashers with Wake Up. The awesome team consists of Anouk Whissell, François Simard, and Yoann-Karl Whissell. All of whom exist firmly in the world of 80s horror and action films. A team that film fans can place their faith in. Because once again, Wake Up is a complete blast from classic slasher past.
Horror movies are consistently better when they end on down notes. For whatever reason watching the good guy win and save the day in a horror film isn’t a good look. Now, when the good guys die or can’t save the day or end up without legs or some such thing, it becomes a lot better and more memorable of a film. I don’t want to give anything away but during the Q and A at Fantastic Fest the very rad and energetic Yoann-Karl Whissell hit everyone in the audience with the very real fact that everyone, everywhere will die eventually. That is exactly the mindset you want on a horror film and the team makes sure to keep things fun and full of death.
Wake Up presents us with GenZ ideals and sets them loose against an unstoppable First Blood like force of nature. Watching Kevin use handmade traps and weapons to take down activists is a guilty pleasure and a hell of a lot of fun. Inventive kills, gore, and the bloodthirsty Kevin make this film an all-out explosive good time. Oh, and we guarantee that the final moments in this film will put your jaw on the floor.