A popular video game streamer accidentally starts playing a haunted game, with deadly consequences for himself and his fans.
Masterfully written, produced, and directed by indie filmmaker, Michelle Iannantuono, Livescream is a soon-to-be-released horror film based largely on the model of live-stream gaming. It was only a matter of time before we got a horror film that would embrace the massive success that is the concept of Twitch and the enormous community of millions that spend their time (and money) interacting there daily. Gaming itself has become an entity to rival even the most profitable of professional sports, with prize pools in the tens of millions of dollars (Yes, you read that right, DotA 2's 2017 total prize pool was over 20 million dollars). The biggest stars on twitch; Ninja, Shroud, Summit1G, Dr. Disrespect, loltyler1, greekgodx...to name but a few, rake in huge amounts a month, with some already millionaires. We cannot forget to name PewDiePie, who technically started the entire concept of the gaming streamer, breaking a million subscribers on YouTube back in 2012.
The horror genre has never been shy of diving into the diversity that social media and gaming offers and if I were to start spouting off titles with a similar concept, we'd be here for a long time, but lets just add #Horror (2015), Unfriended (2014) and the classic Feardotcom (2002) for those who have no idea what I am talking about. Livescream is the latest horror film with a clever title to bravely dip its toes into that precarious genre, but the first to be aware of what is truly trending in the now. Was it successful in being different enough to keep its head above the water? Did it embrace the Meta so as to capture its intended audience? Let's discuss...
The film dives headfirst into what is your typical horror gamer's stream — streams I generally avoid as I'm either playing the game myself or perhaps because I’m already jaded to the imminent jump scares which make up most of the action. The chat section runs slower, with far fewer members than what generally constitutes a Twitch stream...but that's obviously done purposefully here as we get to become accustomed to the names in the chat and can actually follow the conversation; something usually impossibly on popular streamer's accounts. Our single protagonist, Scott (Gunner Willis), begins playing an indie horror title recommended by a follower, with his humble community of around 200 vicariously along for the ride.
One of the film’s greatest feats is obviously the game, which is on par with, if not better than, most of the other indie content out there. It's creepy, familiar, and makes the concept of the film work oh-so-well. Once the shit hits the fan, the scare factor jumps up notch by notch, with the game itself changing continuously, paying homage to a lot of the more popular titles that have graced screens over the years with obvious nods to titles such as Five Nights at Freddies, Slender Man, Alien: Isolation, and the like. There are a lot of easter eggs and references for the nerds out there and I found that really genuine; this is not some big film studio trying to make a buck off the popularity of a gaming genre, this is genuine, knowledgeable fandom at work which is always really refreshing. I only discovered after watching that all nine levels were actually programmed by the filmmaker herself, which is a marvelous feat on its own.
The second feat is the casting of Gunner Willis ( of Ozark and Vice Principals fame) as Scott. He’s amazing. When you literally have a single protagonist sitting in front of a webcam for the entirety of your film, you’re taking more than a risk — you’re mad. That madness pays off as Willis absolutely epitomizes the good-guy gamer, doing his thing and being cool the only way nerds know how. He plays his role convincingly, delivering scene for scene; something he really deserves an award for (one runner-up and one other nomination thus far just doesn’t cut it in my book). I cannot stress enough how make-or-break his role is for the film, and I cannot imagine anyone else doing it justice either.
Being a very non-traditional format, it’s hard to separate the film into acts and scenes — it’s more of the film becoming progressively darker and more intense as the levels progress, with a great pace and constant, edge-of-your-seat action from start to finish (if you consider action watching a guy playing PC games). The sound effects and score are great and realistic, the atmosphere is dark, the concept is fun, and the script is very realistic. The only issue I have with the film is a non-personal one; the audience and their appreciation. I’m a gamer, stream-watcher, PC enthusiast and all-around horror nerd. I completely “got” the film and what the director was trying to purvey — but I consider myself, in that regard and in regards to the film — a very niche audience. Whilst I managed to catch most of the references, ideas, and culture that the film stems from, I worry that the target audience is perhaps a little small. Sure, both the gaming and horror communities are pretty huge, but this is a very unique, fresh idea that that is going to be either hit or miss with both communities. I personally hope that it is the former, as it is a title that really deserves to be seen by many; a wonderful film with more passion than most put into a decade of work.
Overall, Livescream is an achievement more than a simple indie title. It is a testament to the fact that one doesn’t need a huge budget to make a great film. Iannantuono is passion personified — A talented filmmaker that deserves your attention. Catch the trailer below and try to watch this one while on the circuit. It’s definitely not going to be something to sate all appetites, but if you are a fan of current internet trends, love indie films, and know a thing or two about gaming, this one is most definitely a must. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid.
Every day, over 200 loving fans watch Scott Atkinson play horror games online. After a lifetime of failures and false starts, streaming games is the only thing he’s good at. It’s the thing he loves the most. Until it becomes a nightmare. Enter Livescream – a mysterious horror game sent to him by an anonymous fan. At first, he thinks the game is a low quality indie title. But when his followers start dying one by one, he soon realizes the game is far more sinister. Now, Scott will be forced through nine levels of video game hell, each level representing a different horror game niche, in order to walk away alive. It might just cost him his fans, and his soul, in the process.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.