Deadstream, 2022, directed by Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter

Deadstream, 2022, directed by Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter

Sometimes you have to give people credit for working with what they’ve got – and sometimes it makes you curious about whether they’re more talented than they realise.

Shawn Ruddy is a self-described ‘piece of trash’, a prank YouTuber who got himself demonetised by some unnamed act of going too far; we don’t know exactly what at the beginning, but we can pretty much guess because we’ve seen enough of this kind of guy do horrible things online in real life. Now, though, Shawn’s back and really, really desperate to get his livelihood up and running again. It’s Halloween; there’s a haunted house; he’s scared to death but has promised his sponsors that if he doesn’t stay the full night then they don’t have to pay him – a proper answer to the perennial ‘Why don’t you just leave?!’ question that dogs haunted-house movies indeed. Into the house with Shawn and his streaming equipment we go, and the night of spooks begins.

Deadstream, 2022, directed by Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter
Shawn Ruddy will do anything for views (Deadstream)

This is a low-budget movie picked up by Shudder after premiering at South by Southwest film festival, and you can see just how low the budget was. That’s not a criticism, though: what you can see is a series of smart choices made within the constraints. The directorial team is a husband and wife; the husband also stars. There’s one main location, relieved with clips of people filming from their bedrooms. It’s a story where it makes sense for the cameras to be cheap. There’s very little money on the screen, but plenty of good judgement.

Added to that is something rather refreshing:

it’s a horror comedy about an Internet personality that actually gets Internet culture. That’s rarer than you’d think. The jokes about the Internet aren’t dad jokes, they’re insider amusement: posts from the chat that accurately parody what commenters are like; on-target skewering of an influencer’s relationship with a political correctness he needs to preserve to stay online but clearly doesn’t understand or care about; the underlying desperation for content and visibility that drives Shawn to excess. It’s another kind of good decision: the creators did what they knew how to do, and they clearly know the Internet. 

Deadstream, 2022, directed by Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter
When the motion sensors are activated on one of the cams, the stream automatically switches to it. Of course this is used for clever scares.

So in a way cheerful affirmation is what there is to say about Deadstream. But there’s one other thing that made it seem worth a short mention:

Inside Deadstream there are two wolves

They want to make different kinds of horror. And I’m curious to see which one the Winters will feed.

The second half of the film isn’t scary at all. It’s good goofy fun, a kind of dollar-store Evil Dead where you can tell people are shaking props from under the floorboards and, if less wildly manic than Raimi on form, has that same kind of spook-house glee. Not my personal fave genre-wise but a good time; to paraphrase Miss Jean Brodie, if you like that sort of thing this is the sort of thing you will like. 

But in the first half of Deadstream, I was actually scared.

Properly scared. The derelict house was unsettling; there were dark corners and doors you shouldn’t open and moments of quiet waiting. There was suspense, there was foreboding, there was real, serious tension.

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Is it safe to ignore all the graffiti, or just some of it? (Deadstream)

If the Winters decide to go for comedy then hopefully they’ll have a lovely time. They’re able enough comedians – but I didn’t fall about laughing; it was more an amused grin than a full-on cackle. I did, however, grab my partner’s hand and hide behind a cushion during the scary bits. The fear all dissipated as soon as the make-up and props made their way onto the screen: it was the kind stuff you’d see in a haunted-house attraction, a good time but obviously for fun and nothing that’d keep you up at night. But going in expecting a horror comedy, you might be surprised to find how good a straight horror it is in the first act – and if the Winters feed that wolf, we might get some real scares in the future. 

Deadstream is available to watch on Shudder

Deadstream was reviewed by Kit Whitfield

In the Heart of Hidden Things (The Gyrford series) by Kit Whitfield

In the Heart of Hidden Things (The Gyrford series) by Kit Whitfield

Jedediah’s father walked out of his life forty years ago. Now he’s back. He won’t apologise, he doesn’t explain – and, impossibly, he hasn’t aged a day.

If you asked the folks of Gyrford, they’d tell you Jedediah Smith looked up to his father. After all, Corbie Mackem was the Sarsen Shepherd: the man who saved the Smith clan from Ab, the terrifyingly well-meaning fey who blighted a whole generation with unwanted gifts.

Corbie was a good fairy-smith. And if he wasn’t a good father, well, that isn’t something Jedediah likes to talk about. Especially since no one knows where Corbie’s body lies: the day of his son’s wedding, forty-odd years ago, he set off to travel and was never seen again.

These days Jedediah is a respectable elder, more concerned with his wayward grandson John than with his long-buried past, and he has other problems on his mind. There’s the preparations for Saint Clement’s Day, and the odd fact that birds all over the county have taken to hiding themselves, and the misbehaviour of Left-Lop the pig – which has grown vegetation all over its back, escaped its farm and taken to making personal remarks at folks in alarmingly alliterative verse.

But then disaster strikes. Ab is back. And Corbie, thought long dead, returns to Gyrford – younger than his son . . .

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  • Kit Whitfield

    Kit Whitfield writes dark folk fantasy, most recently the Gyrford series: In The Heart of Hidden Things and All The Hollow Of The Sky, both of which were longlisted for BSFA Awards. Featuring fairy-smiths who forge the cold iron that repel malign spirits, belligerent bramble bushes, versifying pigs and a fiery dog that eats landlords. She lives in a London in a neurodiverse family and tries to grow pot plants.

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