One Of The Scariest Scenes In Deadstream Swings Into Frame

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato. In this edition, Matt tunes into the livestream from Hell that is "Deadstream.")

With so many streaming platforms and video-on-demand options, it's inevitable for can't-miss titles to slip through the cracks. Horror fans are eating well these days with services like Shudder and Scream Box catering catalogs of terror — but how are consumers supposed to stay on top of every little gem? Something like Joseph and Vanessa Winter's "Deadstream" deserves all the attention in the world, which you can watch for a monthly Shudder subscription that amounts to pocket change. To make sure "Deadstream" doesn't get lost in the Halloween shuffle, it's my selection this week — take the hint!

I've already given y'all a full review out of SXSW for "Deadstream," which took the Midnight category by storm. "Influencer Horror" is just beginning as a subgenre, as filmmakers explore the nastiest, creepiest, most repugnant reaches of contemporary online obsessions. It's a low-budget attraction with the do-it-yourself tenacity of Sam Raimi's original "Evil Dead," blending hilarious takedowns of YouTube celebrity personalities with formidable bumps in the night. This isn't one of those horror comedies that forgets about its horror — I'm here to debunk that narrative.

The setup

Joseph Winter plays disgraced vlogger Shawn Ruddy, who garnered fame for his video channel dedicated to conquering fears per episode. We're not explicitly sure what Shawn did, but it was bad enough to lose his sponsorships. To regain his viewership and win back his depleting fanbase, Shawn announces the stunt of all livestreaming stunts — he'll spend the night in the historically haunted and abandoned Death Manor. He won't turn the camera off and will allow viewers to influence his decisions. It's the livestream from Hell.

The story so far

Shawn arrives at Death Manor and begins preparations. He rigs fancy surveillance cameras throughout critical viewpoints in Death Manor and half-seriously comments on any and every creepy noise. Shawn's conditions for a hopeful re-sponsorship outline that he can't leave Death Manor (so Shawn chucks his vehicle's spark pugs and throws the Death Manor key down a grate) and must explore every nook and cranny. Shawn proves he's willing to do whatever it takes to regain his celebrity status, including a spinner wheel that will force him to provoke the house's spirits against better judgment.

Shawn tells the tale of Mildred Pratt, a wealthy Mormon heiress and failed poet who haunts Death Manor. He establishes a safe room in the only place where no deaths have been recorded, despite a strange symbol hanging in the closet. Next comes a seance that instead summons superfan Chrissy (Melanie Stone), who becomes a fan-favorite much to Shawn's dismay. Their team-up leads to spirit boards and recited Latin, then frustration, arguments, and a bloody scene where Chrissy bites Shawn's neck — which he repays with a stake through the neck. Finally, after some screaming and cowing in the safe room, Shawn attempts to plan an escape that requires going downstairs. That's when Shawn confronts the hanging corpse of what appears to be Mildred Pratt after Chrissy disappears.

The scene

Shawn dashes to his safe room and scampers into the closet when he hears a hanging noise and sees Mildred swaying above the exit staircase on his upstairs surveillance feed. After a quick regroup — where he watches an online video deciphering the unknown symbol previously revealed — Shawn gathers the courage to leave his supposed ghost-free zone.

Then, Shawn approaches the closed door to the upstairs hallway and checks his live video feed to see if Mildred is still swaying with a noose around her neck. She is, but Shawn has no other option. Shawn whimpers and whines about the issue at hand, pulling the tablet to his face to keep an eye on Mildred. Every time he does, it blocks the entire screen. We are Shawn, seeing through Shawn's eyes, and not seeing what's past his handheld screen.

He walks into the hallway, at the far end, staring toward the exit staircase. He still can't see Mildred, so the tablet goes up, which shows Shawn approaching a dangling Mildred, who is still apparently there. Shawn's steps are gradual, drawing out the scene where he lifts the tablet, shows Mildred, lowers the device, and sees nothing. He then approaches the location where Mildred appears to be hanging and looks toward the tablet again. First, he glances down and to the side, almost like he's trying to navigate how to squeeze past Mildred using only the tablet. Then Shawn lifts the tablet in a swooping motion that completely covers our view of where Mildred should be but hasn't been. She couldn't possibly be there now, could she?

We know what's coming. We've seen horror movies. Of course, Mildred will be there, as Shawn lowers his tablet to reveal her grinning, discolored face. Shawn sees the ghoul giddily staring at his viewers before cackling and pouncing on his back like an animal, choking him out in a sleeper hold position.

It's predictable in structure but speaks to the effectiveness of "Deadstream." Jump scares and formulas aren't inherently bad — execution determines whether jump scares are wasteful or formulas are stale. Winter uses the tablet so well as Shawn, the cinematography sneakily blocks our peripherals, and the designed fright mechanics are slickly oiled. Seeing Mildred's face is a wonderfully effective payoff, which speaks to how "Deadstream" succeeds at blending horror and comedy.

The impact (Chris' Take)

Horror-comedy is incredibly hard to get right, but "Deadstream" pulls it off almost perfectly, expertly blending both laughs and screams. Earlier this year, the horror film "Dashcam" arrived, and folks, it was awful. "Deadstream" is like the good version of "Dashcam." Both are horror comedies with extremely unlikable protagonists, but "Deadstream" manages to invest us in the story and want to follow along, while "Dashcam" made me want to stop watching almost immediately.

The scene Matt highlights here is a great example of a jump scare that works. Jump scares have gotten a bad rap over the years, and with good reason — they're often used in cheap, dumb ways (see: a cat jumps out of seemingly nowhere and screeches at someone). But if they're done in a way that's actually scary, the payoff is sweet. If you're in search of a fun horror flick with good scares, head over to Shudder right now and check out "Deadstream."