Why Deadstream's Blend Of Horror, Comedy, And Found Footage Is So Effective

Directors Joseph and Vanessa Winter made something special with "Deadstream," a thrilling and hilarious POV horror film about a disgraced YouTuber desperately attempting to win back his audience by pulling the most ridiculous stunt imaginable. Joseph Winter stars as the fictional Shawn Ruddy, an insufferable online personality armed with all of the hot new technological gadgets viewers assume (and often demand) all creators utilize, who breaks into a notorious haunted house called Death Manor to livestream his overnight stay.

As this is a film starring a YouTuber-turned-streamer, Ruddy does just about everything a horror movie has taught us not to do in a haunted house, including destroying sacred items, performing a seance, reading Latin out loud, and talking wicked smack about the ghostly inhabitants as a means to keep his viewers interested. The comparisons to "The Evil Dead" and "Hell House LLC" are easy to make and not inaccurate, but the new techno-horror approach "Deadstream" brings to the cabin in the woods subgenre is a revolution.

Ruddy's misadventures will have you curled up in a ball with your hands over your eyes one minute, and audibly cackling in joy the next. Horror comedies have a long and beloved history within the genre, and "Deadstream" is an exciting addition to an already rich, bountiful canon. So why does it work so well? Why does "Deadstream" rise as the cream of the crop when there are countless horror comedies and found footage movies released every year? The answer is simple: the success of "Deadstream" lies in the way it marries horror, comedy, and found footage/POV elements to maximum effectiveness.

Deadstream is laugh-out-loud funny

From the film's opening moments of Ruddy delivering his extremely millennial YouTube personality schtick on his channel, viewers immediately get a good idea of the specific brand of a–hole this guy is. Shawn Ruddy is the cursed lovechild of Shane Dawson, Doug Walker, Logan Paul, and PewDiePie, and I mean that as disrespectfully as humanly possible. Having a protagonist so instantly irritating and unlikable serves as the main focus of what is essentially a one-man show is a bold move, but for the story of "Deadstream," it's the only way it works. If we genuinely like Ruddy, "Deadstream" becomes an underdog story and immediately loses the schadenfreude cringe we crave.

Ruddy's constant commentary and content creator "isms" speaks to a contemporary sense of humor, like when a black screen with white font declaring what we're about to see is the found footage of his livestream appears, only for Ruddy to step back and reveal that it's actually a t-shirt currently available in his merch shop. He brings a "Wheel of Stupid Ideas" that include options like "perform an exorcism" and "use a spirit board," because white men craving fame love to loudly express how dumb they are.

We want to see Ruddy piss off a house full of ghosts. We crave the poetic justice of watching a royal can of douche finally get the comeuppance he deserves. If Ruddy is a good guy that we want to see succeed, watching him flop so spectacularly stops being fun. And yes, admitting this out loud is also a reflection of our current culture of reveling in the failures of others, because we're all desperate to see some semblance of vindication that karma still exists in our unjust world.

The horror is genuinely scary

Growing up watching shows like MTV's "Fear" and the Discovery Channel series "A Haunting" completely scarred me for life, and now any film presenting the exploration of a haunted house in a realistic manner is a one-way ticket to me screaming my face off. The lore of Death Manor includes the tale of 1800s sadgirl poet Mildred Pratt, the first of many deaths in the manor. Mildred is the most malicious spirit in the house, but a lanky ghost known as "Corner Man" also haunts the halls, along with creepy kids, and a grotesque bathtub corpse. By utilizing clever camera tricks and old spookhouse tactics, "Deadstream" feels like a virtual walkthrough of a seasonal haunted house.

The jump scares are painfully effective, the built-in tension is masterful, and even though Shawn Ruddy screams in terror like an 11-year-old girl, I was screaming right along with him. Horror comedies often lean in one direction or another, usually feeling like a horror film with comedic elements or a comedy set in the world of a horror film. "Deadstream" is a rare example of a horror comedy that is just as scary as it is funny, especially when superfan Chrissy (Melanie Stone) shows up.

Of course, something being "scary" is subjective and there will definitely be plenty who roll their eyes in disbelief, but if you're someone who gets a jolt of adrenaline when something pops up out of nowhere, "Deadstream" will take your fear responses on a rollercoaster ride. Whenever the camera switches to Ruddy's POV, it's like the film is throwing us into an immersive playthrough of the newest "Resident Evil" game. Which, if you're like me, puts you at risk of peeing your pants in horror.

A new way to present found footage

"The Blair Witch Project" proved there was a massive market for found footage horror, and filmmakers have been trying to chase that success ever since. Except for films like "[REC]," which are a non-stop barrage of chaos and action, the one-camera approach has proven difficult to keep audiences intrigued. As such, many have taken the "Paranormal Activity" approach, introducing multiple cameras to the storyline to provide interesting angles and perspectives. Unfortunately, finding a way to justify why the footage is cutting between cameras has proven rather difficult, but "Deadstream" solved the problem. We watch Ruddy set up multiple cameras throughout the house, as well as multiple portable cameras attached to his body that can shift perspective based on motion detection. With the livestream showcasing multiple cameras, Ruddy can jump from camera to camera without it ever feeling unnatural.

Every so often, Ruddy will open his laptop to view the livestream the same way those at home could see him, and the chat feature provides a running commentary that likely reflects the viewer's own thoughts. No, Ruddy can't just jump out the window — he'll get hurt, obvi. As he tries to make sense of the supernatural happenings around him, viewers submit videos to him providing explanations they've found doing their own research, an extremely clever way to provide exposition without the film turning into a mockumentary. Everything happens in real-time and all of the technology being used has an in-universe justification for usage. He's got a hotspot to livestream, and he's got plenty of batteries in case something needs more juice, but with the film moving at a breakneck pace, losing his stream should be the least of his worries.

Have fun for Halloween

The last few years of horror have been dominated by deeply emotional films that often elicit internal interrogations of the viewer's own experiences. As moving as a film like "Hereditary" can be for those learning to navigate grief, there's been a severe drought of "fun horror" that provides a respite for fans. There's a time and a place for any and every horror story, but with Halloween just around the corner, this is the time for a movie like "Deadstream" to truly shine. Halloween is one of the only communal holidays we have, where the shared experiences with those around us by choice or geography are prioritized above the obligations of family or "country."

The livestream nature of the film's format makes it a perfect watch for viewers looking for something enjoyable on their own, but the brilliant union of the aforementioned elements makes it a great party watch with a group of friends. To sweeten the deal even further, "Deadstream" is a fantastic addition to the transitionary horror subgenre, where the bravest young viewers can also enjoy the scares as they graduate out of family-friendly fare and inch closer toward R-rated fright fests.

The heart of the horror genre has always been with independent creatives, and it's hard not to look at what Joseph and Vanessa Winter pulled off with a minimal budget and DIY-or-die attitude and not feel inspired. In the same way that Sam Raimi motivated a generation of splatterpunk filmmakers to grab a camera, head out into the woods, and try to make something awesome, the Winters will hopefully ignite a similar flame for a new generation.

Don't forget to smash that like button on "Deadstream," and be sure to subscribe to whatever the Winters have cooking up next.