Imagine, if you will, a love letter of sorts to Evil Dead, but bring it into the digital age and center it around "influencer" culture. Anything for the shot, anything for those likes! This found footage horror comedy does a lot with a simple premise and ramps up the fun... and the scares. Husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Vanessa and Joseph Winter make their feature directorial debut with Deadstream. After making the rounds at festivals and streaming on Shudder, the horror comedy has landed on DVD and Blu-Ray Steelbook. The Winters joined us to discuss their Chainsaw-nominated horror for the digital age.
What has the response been like? From festivals to streaming on Shudder, now it's on a Blu-ray. And not just Blu-ray, but a Steelbook release.
Joseph Winter: It's been wild to see the shape that this has taken over time. Originally, we didn't have any aspirations beyond just the streaming platform, so when we found out there would be a DVD, we were all ecstatic about it. And then eventually, we got the news that that was not only a Blu-ray, but it would be a Steelbook. So we couldn't be happier with it. We're thrilled to be in this position right now.
You all did such a fantastic job capturing the overall character of what we think of as a YouTuber or an influencer. I'm guessing it's an amalgamation of that culture in general, but were you channeling anyone specific?
Vanessa Winter: Yeah. We actually started riffing on this movie or the concept of it pretty early. So I think it was first PewDiePie, because he was our gateway into the YouTube culture, and then it kind of branched out into more niche places. But there's a YouTuber called iDubbbz with a very particular kind of self-deprecating humor that we kind of pulled from. And then there's another crazy guy, Houston Jones. We have to credit Joseph's dad for sending us one of his videos in the middle of the night. But he's just kind of super zany, over-the-top, physical stunts.
JW: He hurts himself on purpose. In the video my dad sent, we got a text that says, man shoots himself in the nuts with a paintball gun. And so we opened it up, and this dude was really over the top, high-speed, rapid-fire delivery. And we thought, personality-wise, this is very much Sean. So we blended all those together, and then we tried to bring something to it that maybe people hadn't quite seen so that he would feel not just like a parody but kind of unique. He could believably exist in our world.
VW: We were also pulling from Joseph's strengths as a comedian.
JW: I wouldn't say strength.
VW: Definitely strength.
JW: We pulled from what we knew that I was likely capable of doing, from having put me in some of our films in the past.
VW: Yeah. But he kind of has this thing where he's really into analog, has these little tapes, and writes his own score.
JW: That's true.
VW: And I think there's a nerdiness there, that you're channeling.
JW: Okay. But here's the thing, I like to distance myself as much as I can. We're not huge Sean fans in real life.
I know there are a lot of cool special features on the Blu-ray. What can we expect there?
JW: Going into it, I asked Twitter, which is always a great idea, what do you want to see in special features? We were about to put a bunch of time into them. It was all over the place in what people wanted. A lot of people don't like the filmmaker-leaning stuff, but we ended up choosing what we've learned from making it, kind of a do-it-yourself, low-budget horror movie. We wanted to share that information with anybody else who's aspiring to do a similar kind of thing. So it's very filmmaker oriented, I would say, and really deep dives into everything we went through to get it on the screen. And my personal favorite, though, is a short three-minute feature about the haunted stuff that happened to the crew on the making of Deadstream, the lore of the actual house, and how the community views that haunted house.
VW: Yeah. Also, I don't think you have to be a filmmaker to appreciate the craft of practical effects making. And our producer, Jared, put together a special feature that really dives into the creature designer Troy Larson's process and also Mikaela Kester, the makeup effects artist. I think it's pretty fun, but I also really love monsters and monster-making, I think it turned out really great.
There's actually spooky stuff that happened on set?
JW: Vanessa has a funny one, but my experience, I was a little bit annoyed because we were trying so hard to make this movie, and it has its own stress that comes with it. There were a couple of rooms that we call the hotspots of the house, where some crew members started refusing to go into because of the energy and weird things happening on set. After we wrapped, we asked everyone to send voice memos of their experience in the house, a crew member heard a woman's voice singing. We were looking through the footage when we were editing, and there was a clip, it was during a take where you hear a woman's voice really faintly in the background, but it wasn't happening on set. So it's a lot of weird stuff like that going on.
VW: We played it back so many times. We were like, is that my voice? It's not by video village. You can hear the video village people, but this sounds like it was somewhere else. Anyway, we spent a long time trying to figure out who that could have been.
JW: Yeah, tell the story about the construction worker.
VW: The story that actually makes me laugh the most is that we had a problem because the house is so famous in its community, we had a lot of break-ins during the night, and so we had to put up a security system just to keep teenage thrill-seekers out of the house. And so one night, there was a break-in, and a cop showed up, and then he called our producer. So our producer showed up, but he was twenty minutes behind the cop, and when he got there, the cop was still in his car. He hadn't gone into the house. Our producer got out and was like, "what's going on?" And he's like, "honestly, I grew up in this town as a kid. I've been in the house. It's haunted. And I was too scared to go in."
JW: This is that hotspot house that... I mean, there's a woman who can be seen by different people. They've reported a woman in a certain bedroom looking out the window. We knew a guy personally who said he had that experience when he was a teen. So yeah, this would've been that house.
Did you want a haunted location?
VW: We were just like a location, please.
JW: When Vanessa and I were first looking at the house, it was in really bad shape, and it wasn't particularly spooky because of how bad a shape it was in. We were on the upper floor, just by ourselves, I looked up, and there was a cat in the rafters just looking at us. I screamed, and from that cat experience, I realized how much I would prefer it wasn't a haunted house because it's very scary being in that space.
It sounds cool, in theory. Yeah. I hate everything about that. Love that for you. I hate that for myself.
JW: It's fun now that it's over and it worked out. Our theory is that Jared, the producer who had to go out there in the middle of the night for the break-ins all the time, we feel like he brought whoever she is home with him because it kept haunting his project. When he was the post supervisor, his computer kept glitching, and he said when he saw images of the house, he would taste and smell the house. So he's got it. It's stuck to him.
Obviously, I'm guessing you are fans of found footage. What are some favorites or just something that made a difference, it's iconic, something that sticks out?
VW: I'm obsessed with REC. Yeah, I watched it a lot leading up to Deadstream and hope to make a movie that good someday.
JW: Lake Mungo we really love. I don't know if there's another found footage movie that's tonally better than that.
VW: Yeah, it leans into a mood and just stays there. So good.
Solid choices. How about horror comedies? I'm guessing you're also fans of those.
JW: Yeah, definitely. So the obvious references when you watch Deadstream are Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness. You can see a lot of that in there. But I also grew up really loving House and House II. My dad and I watched those a lot, and I would say it probably shaped the DNA of the film the most, probably those four films.
VW: I also love Drag Me to Hell.
JW: I think that Drag Me To Hell is a rare, perfect movie.
VW: Yeah. He just goes there in that movie while also just keeping you in a terrified mood.
During the "livestream" there are tons of viewer names and comments. I've seen such great stuff, but I also know I'd probably have to watch this a thousand more times to catch all of that. Did you have a favorite or sneak any Easter eggs in there?
JW: As far as Easter eggs go, Jared wrote over a thousand of the ones that just scroll quickly. Vanessa and I had written into the script most of the upvoted ones that you're intended to read and that Sean interacts with. But Jared filled out a spreadsheet, and he wrote over a thousand of the filler ones, and he got carried away. There's like a Romeo and Juliet love story, two people meet, and by the end of the movie, they're engaged. But the Easter eggs that are horror related that are my favorite are in the final image of the film when Shawn does his sendoff. There is just a whole bunch scrolling really fast. That's where you'll find a Mick Garris shout-out and some Monster Squad love and other things like that. So that's the one you'd want to watch multiple times to catch all those.
Deadstream Blu-Ray Steelbook is available exclusively at Walmart, also available on DVD and streaming on Shudder. Watch our full interview below, and if you're hungry for more found footage horror, check out our 15 Of The Scariest Found Footage Films After The Blair Witch Project.