Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got another first for Horror Press after recently posting our 200th article. This time, we’ve got a full-on comedy on our hands.
Of course, we’re Horror Press, so the film has got to be a horror-comedy, it’s what I’d consider more of a comedy-horror. And Deadstream is a great one. After being suspended from Youtube and Twitch—I mean, LivVid, hacky haunt vlogger Shawn Ruddy’s “triumphant” return to the internet involves an IRL livestream exploring Death Manor, a decrepit haunted house in the woods that has seen a dozen deaths since its creation. And of course, this stream is going to have some unconventional guests from beyond the material plane.
Deadstream just might have the perfect opening for the movies high concept. If they ever do a Deadstream 2 (which they should since I think they could push harder on the horror angle and have just as much fun with it), I would be very hard-pressed to think of one that works better than this. From the very opening shot of the movie, it perfectly satirizes the inane zeitgeist of scumbag 2010s YouTube personalities that dominated the screens of so many an impressionable child. A large part of that is due to Joseph Winters, whom I must give serious props to for pulling triple duty as a co-writer, co-director, and star of the film.
Winters’ performance and Shawn as a character tie into how the movie also avoids one of the great pitfalls of found footage horror. 1. It’s pretty clearly not meant to be taken 100% seriously, and 2. We have a reason our character keeps filming and actively goes deeper into the dark depths of a haunted house; not a dedication to the truth, or a missing family member, Shawn is just a completely believable money-hungry, narcissistic idiot who can’t turn off the act, and by extension, can’t turn off the cameras. He is a perfect idiot who traps himself and gets in his own way. Winters accurately depicts that especially slimy breed of Internet click-farmer, who always hints at a darker and scummier side than their loud, colorful persona would allow.
It also avoids the big technical flaws of many found footage horror movies in that the cameras and the mechanisms for editing all feel believable, especially with how good commercial cameras and stream deck programs have gotten. Even the diegetic music in the film is explained with a series of clever visual gags, and its little details like that which I appreciate The chat graphics, the lighting being well balanced, the movement of the cameras and integration of motion-sensors, they don’t ever take you out of the film.
A measure of thought and care was put into this movie that never really leaves, and it helps me overlook some of the movie’s issues. The soundtrack isn’t very inspired but is still catchy. The makeup is a bit wonky at times, with one very Party City looking mask on one of the ghost-demon-ghoul creatures, but it’s serviceable for the film’s purposes; the movie is here to amuse, not terrify. There are moments where the makeup looks good in some scenes, but the film’s practical effects only really stand out in its very splattery and grimy moments designed to gross you out to the max. That, in conjunction with some pretty good location scouting and set design, makes its mise-en-scene just work.
So here comes the cold-water splash of every comedy movie review. Is Deadstream funny? Well, I think it’s hilarious, and Winter’s comedic timing is never off-tempo or off-tone enough to change my mind on that. But I must warn you that most, if not all, of the humor in this film will probably not land if you’re not amused by how Winters can replicate those radioactively dangerous levels of content creator cringe. Shawn as a character is despicable and over-the-top, but if you can’t find humor in that within the first 5 minutes, you’re probably not going to enjoy this one. This is not a film that will have everyone in stitches, but I think the audience who does understand what this movie is making fun of will find it hilariously realistic.
If you don’t have Shudder already, this film is a strong case for the kind of very innovative originals the platform is producing and distributing that you should be subscribed for. I’ve watched my fair share of horror movies this month on Shudder, and even Deadstream, the one that was just barely horror, was still pretty darn good.
BOTTOMLINE: Don’t go into Deadstream expecting to be terrified. It’s a fun little watch, first and foremost, with a specific audience in mind. This can also serve as a palate cleanser for the more numbing or terrifying horror movies you might watch this October, so stick this into the rotation after your Martyrs’ or Wolf Creek’s if you need to get the ick off.
Deadstream comes to Shudder this Thursday, October 6th.
Christmas Horror Parody ‘The Mean One’ Successfully Converts Christmas Classic ‘The Grinch’ into a Scary Story
If Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch was too tame a Christmas-hating monster for your tastes, never fear; The Mean One is here.
How ‘The Mean One’ Wins as a Christmas Horror Movie
This comedy-horror slasher, directed by Steven LaMorte, tells the story of Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin) returning to her hometown of Newville – where her mother had been viciously murdered in front of her twenty years prior. The sheriff did not take the young girl’s claims that a monster had killed her mother seriously, so the murder remained unsolved. Cindy’s return to town shows a Newville that is wholly undecorated for Christmas, and as a string of murders begins to occur, Cindy knows her mother’s killer has returned.
With the appearance of the Mean One himself and a good balance of campiness and horror, all spread out amongst an intriguing storyline; The Mean One is a fun Christmas horror movie that subverts a beloved childhood classic and makes it its own.
The Horror-Parody Version of The Grinch
One thing the film did exceedingly well was its presentation of The Mean One. The makeup effects were stellar in creating a monster who is at the crossroads of a terrifying cryptid and a holiday icon. From his dirty Santa coat to his black snarl, he checked all the boxes for how a Christmas-hating monster should look.
Of course, to talk about the monster is also to talk about the man behind the mask, David Howard Thornton. After establishing himself as a horror icon in his role of Art the Clown in the Terrifier films, it was fun to see him transcend another role as a horror villain. With another horror flick under his belt, David Howard Thornton is one to keep an eye on. So far, every character he has been behind has been creepy and entertaining, perfectly matching the film’s tone.
The Approach to Campy Horror
A horror film with rhyming couplets interspersed throughout could never be completely serious, and The Mean One succeeds because it doesn’t try to be. However, the film is not without its creepy moments that would be well-placed in any modern-day horror movie. Like any good scary movie, there are dramatic reveals, emotional turmoil, and suspense building.
It also injects a sense of fear into the holiday itself as it makes the idea of celebrating Christmas a dangerous thing. It’s a delicate balance to create something that is not very serious but simultaneously creepy, and the film does just that.
The Mean One Tells a Story That You Already Know in a Different Way
When making a horror film based on a traditional Christmas story, the added challenge is changing it enough to fit into the horror genre but not so much that it becomes unrecognizable. The Mean One was clearly up to the challenge as it was able to interweave a story that mimicked the traditional Dr. Seuss style of storytelling, with plotlines of a typical scary movie, while still paying homage to the source material. The integration into horror was so smooth that it felt like it should’ve been a scary story all along.
The idea of presenting the recognizable holiday monster as a cryptid is a genius move and calls to question why the Whos down in Whoville never inquired about the existence of the creature who descended from Mount Crumpit to steal their Christmas away in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
It was not only the Mean One that saw some subversion of Christmas lore. A white-haired bearded man with a red cap who seems to watch over the beginning events of the film (and is aptly named “Doc” Zeus) integrated a little bit of a real-life Santa into the storyline.
Make no mistake; this film is not a high-budget, major Hollywood production. The blood spray effects are campy to the nth degree, and the movie is not without its flaws. But what it does well, it does very well. The Mean One’s appearance is gritty, fun, and familiar; the storyline is immediately immersive – altogether, it is an entertaining watch.
It delivers everything the premise promises: a presentation of a fun Christmas flick that we all know, but this time for horror fans.
See The Mean One for yourself in theaters on December 9th!
RUN RUN RUDOLPH, KILLER ROBOT SANTA’S IN TOWN: ‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’ Review
Seasons screamings, everyone!
I have another wonderful treat for you all, hot out the Shudder ovens. If you’re like me, that means your holiday evenings as a horror fan might be feeling a little bit empty in terms of festivity, and Christmas Bloody Christmas is here to make that right. I’m cheery about the film from the jump. Que raro!
Christmas Bloody Christmas follows what happens when an attempt to turn surplus military technology (a.k.a. killer robots) into friendly department store Santa animatronics backfires; our jolly old Saint Nick ends up painting the town redder than a candy cane’s stripes, terrorizing coworkers Tori (Riley Dandy) and Robbie (Sam Delich) amid their budding romance. Is the premise kind of dumb? Yes, but if you’ve been reading my reviews, you know dumb fun horror is my wheelhouse just as much as the highbrow stuff is. And just because something is silly doesn’t mean it can’t be well made.
Writer and director Joe Begos is getting my second shoutout of the year for his work. I thought the foul-mouthed dialogue of this movie sounded familiar, and that’s because he headed another Channel 83 venture I recommended for October, the 2019 vampires-on-drugs film Bliss. There are many similarities between the two directorially, though this is much more oriented for fun than the psychological nightmare Bliss was. Where Bliss was a dark game of Vampire: The Masquerade, Christmas Bloody Christmas is your classic slasher during the holiday season.
We’ve also left the Panos Kosmatos-esque territory of Bliss’s cinematography, which might be due to the influence of cinematographer Brian Sowell who previously made the film Beyond the Gates, another fun little low-budget horror flick I remember enjoying. Neon wasteland cinematography that is replete with a color palette tuned for blacklight posters and Christmas lights in every single shot, and every scene outside being caked in fake snow and decorations help the aesthetic this movie is going for feel fully realized.
Composer Steve Moore who worked on both Mayhem and The Guest, two of my favorite action horror films, provides an impeccable score for this film of heavy synth rock with homage to some of the band’s name dropped in the film by our leads. And Josh Russell, who did makeup work for The Night House and a little horror remake you may have heard of called Hellraiser (2022), rounds out that group. The crew on this one is practically a perfect assortment of horror movie production irregulars.
Delich and Dandy have pretty good on-screen chemistry as dirtbag crustpunks who need several mouthfuls of soap scrubbed onto those tongues. Dandy in particular is a veteran of fun, romantic holiday movies, and it’s nice to see she can extend her range beyond being a forgettable Hallmark protagonist whose outfit stepped out of a JCPenney catalog. She makes for an enjoyable final girl for this.
The duo talk like their dialogue is on loan from the Hellbillies of a Rob Zombie film, but they’re believable as coworkers in a long-term “will-they-wont-they” relationship. Their exchanges are genuinely funny at points, even if they stay a bit longer than welcome. These don’t veer into trying to impress you with the character’s pretentiousness about music; they’re just two friends drunk and high on Christmas eve, talking about their flailing romantic lives and which of their bands has the best Christmas song.
Beyond characters, the meat of the film is Silent Night Deadly Night by way of The Terminator in its premise. And in its execution, it feels like a lower-grade SNDN film for how cartoonishly violent and mean the kills can get, and I mean that in the best way. A single axe swing chops a guy in half like it’s a board of wood at a kid’s karate class, several people get thrown around like ragdolls through objects, and there are plenty of fake heads and bodies getting demolished for the gore hounds in the audience. Even the robot gets severely jacked up with sparks flying and explosions. The special effects are hammy, and I love it more for that.
But as much as I like it, this one isn’t flawless. I feel like our dear Santa could have had a stronger design, maybe with a solid mask, and played with more robotic physicality beyond what we get in the third act. The camera work can sometimes be distracting in its attempts to convey high tension, ending up feeling fidgety instead.
And to be quite honest, I’m very torn on the films ending. While it’s very entertaining and we get to see the full depth of the crazy animatronic Santa we’ve been waiting for all film which I love, it also drags in a way that is funny for some and might be a bit grating for others. Ultimately some editing flaws are exacerbated by the film being an exceptionally tight 86 minutes (we’re talking stocking stuffed to the brim tight), so it could serve well to have a director’s cut.
BOTTOMLINE: Christmas Bloody Christmas is an over-the-top, grindhouse-y spectacular that gives you exactly what’s in the title. It isn’t your standard holiday horror fare where there’s usually more about the film to laugh at than laugh with, but it definitely isn’t humorless. It’s a solid little film that looks like it could make a reliable staple in the rotation of dumb fun holiday horror for many Christmases to come. You know, assuming you don’t get killed by a robotic Santa Claus before then.
Watch Christmas Bloody Christmas starting 12/9 on Shudder!