Like its predecessor, “Livescreamers” is a tight and competent horror movie that just might spearhead the found-streaming horror subgenre.Reviw of Livescreamers by Jamie Marino
Michelle Iannantuono wrote and directed her feature film debut, Livescream, in 2018 and gave us yet another found footage innovation: mock live streaming/Twitch gameplay. Comparisons to Unfriended were predictably instantaneous, and as usual, found footage haters and the unadventurous were left in the dust while found footage enthusiasts enjoyed another new idea.
While Livescream was a stripped-down affair revolving almost entirely around one character, crude gameplay, and very little in the way of gore or effects, the spiritual sequel, Livescreamers, presents an expanded set of victims for a more advanced, even more sinister, supernatural indie horror game that goes for the jugular with much more bloodthirsty intensity.
Although Iannantuono used the sophisticated Unreal Engine 4 to bring the game itself to life, it has the nostalgic look of a late 90s/early aughts survival horror game. But that doesn’t mean it’s not visually engaging, as both the design of the player avatars and the many intricate rooms within the framework of the game look outstanding and do a phenomenal job drawing you in.
Ryan Laplante plays Mitch, the owner and host of an extremely popular game streaming channel.
The players in his crew are on-point caricatures of the type of young people we expect to see as professional gamers.
There’s Jon (Christopher Trindade), cool-as-a-cucumber, and his enthusiastically unserious best friend Davey (Evan Michael Pearce). They have a very close “bro” bond, which the others claim is their way of expressing secret sexual desires for each other.
It’s the kind of playful, faux-flirtatious banter that has earned them legions of fans and adoring fanfic written in their honor, but it leaves queer, sharp-tongued and take-no-shit player Dice (Maddox Julien Slide) more than a little disgusted by the disingenuous nature of their relationship. As for the disgruntled Dice, they have a fun style that combines mohawk-era Storm with Tank Girl.
Anna Lin plays Zelda, the Hello Kitty cutie of the game, complete with kitten-ear headphones. Michael Smallwood plays Nemo, the most mellow player on the team and Mitch’s default right-hand man. Coby C. Oram plays the obnoxious pretty-boy hotshot of the group, Taylor, while Sarah Callahan Black plays his beautiful but overtly sexualized-for-ratings girlfriend, Gwen.
(Hyphens are fun. I’m using so many hyphens.)
Taylor is definitely the star, but his girlfriend, Gwen, often outshines him (begrudgingly) as the group’s focal point when it comes to geek gamer simping.
Finally, Neoma Sanchez plays Lucy, a sweepstakes winner invited to play live at the studio with her favorite gamers. Lucy is starstruck and not entirely comfortable with herself, which the team members try to remedy with genuine good vibes and encouragement.
Past this point, the players become increasingly difficult to rally around.
Personality flaws, insecurities, and serious missteps come bubbling to the surface, and the seemingly jovial facade gives way to bitterness and in-fighting. Most everyone has a secret they are desperate to keep, and the sinister game gleefully exploits the group’s weaknesses while airing everyone’s dirty laundry.
This results in plenty of riveting human drama, but the film’s main attraction is, of course, the deadly gameplay.
It’s why you’re really here, so let’s take a look at the whirlwind of death the mysterious House of Souls pushes our intrepid players into.
They begin their playthrough by entering a dark, seemingly abandoned mansion (very similar to the mansion at the beginning of the OG Resident Evil).
As mentioned before, Iannantuono put Unreal Engine 5 to the task of recreating an on-point recreation of games like RESIDENT EVIL and OUTLAST, and the authenticity of the outcome gives the movie a boost of realism.
As they wander the hallways, the players find random items and cryptic clues, an activity that old-school gamers will remember fondly. The occasional jump scares keep the players and the audience on their toes.
As the team plays, you can detect the cracks in the unit’s armor as they begin to bicker with each other over perceived slights, large and small.
This review is heading into spoiler territory, so please be forewarned.
The indie horror game, which Mitch claims is a beta copy sent to him for early review, eventually leads everyone into a magnificent room with shiny, medieval suits of armor lining the walls. Within the game, all the players sit in a circle while the game’s AI begins to ask them video game-related trivia questions.
The questions become increasingly difficult to answer, and every time someone gets an answer wrong, the knight directly behind them takes a step closer.
At first, it seems like all fun and games, with no one taking the challenge particularly seriously. But soon, the dire consequences of losing a life in-game become painfully clear, and one of the team members is dispatched early on in a brutal fashion.
It’s a very original and mean-spirited way of dispatching the murder meat (victims), and it’s a treat to come across relatively new ideas.
The unthinkably high stakes of the game are now readily apparent.
The fractured crew must attempt to navigate the various challenges thrown at them and work as a cohesive unit to defeat the game and save each other from certain doom.
The alchemy of the game itself in Livescreamers is fascinating and investing.
Everything that happens to your character in the game happens to you in real life. A suit of armor splits the head of an unfortunate trivia player in half in what is probably my favorite and most heartbreaking kill.
The game begins to personally attack the other players, with Taylor being called out for questionable behavior with adoring underage fans. The others react the way you might expect, with Gwen, of course, not holding back her emotional devastation.
The game then calls out Mitch for sweeping serious allegations under the rug to protect the show’s reputation and profits while putting his players in personal and professional jeopardy.
The fates of Jon and David are interconnected, and their undoing is luxuriantly, satisfyingly malevolent.
The mockup of the stream is flawlessly realistic and intelligent, which helps make the film easy to sink into.
One of the most important aspects of found footage is immersion, and Livescreamers definitely triumphs in this regard. I do wish it had been gorier, but that’s more due to personal preference than a failure on the part of the film.
Ultimately, Livescreamers is enormously fun and feels like a genuinely inventive and surprising take on the subgenre. It’s highly recommended for fans of found footage and screen-life horror enthusiasts.
You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate this genre gem, but familiarity with survival horror/roleplaying games will undoubtedly enhance your appreciation for the level of involvement and authenticity Iannantuono achieves with the thrilling Livescreamers.
Prepare for Livescreamers by checking out the smart and utterly captivating 2018 predecessor to the film from Michelle Iannantuono, Livescream.Review of Livescream by Stephanie Malone
Livescream is an innovative, highly creative horror film told entirely as a video game live stream about a popular video game streamer, Scott (Gunner Willis), who unwittingly plays a haunted game that comes with deadly consequences for himself and his followers.
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…until it becomes a nightmare.
Enter Livestream, 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.
Even though the film is composed almost entirely of just one actor onscreen, the combination of compelling live play — that feels authentic and visually engaging — and a running chat with Scott’s loyal viewers ensures there’s never a dull moment.
The faux game itself is wildly entertaining as it features numerous levels and challenges, each resembling a unique type of popular horror game and a wide mixture of styles, aesthetics, and game mechanics. For example, one level feels very much like the Slederman game, while another is reminiscent of Five Nights at Freddy’s. It’s thrilling to see what the game and the film will throw at us next.
Despite the film’s minimalist approach, it succeeds on every level and feels truly original and engaging.
The attention to detail is impressive, and Iannantuono manages to invest you in the world fully and the characters with no setup or backstory other than what you can learn through Scott’s interactive chat with his followers. You even find yourself caring about members of his audience despite them having virtually no onscreen presence.
Iannantuono subverts expectations at every turn, and it’s far more emotionally gripping and nuanced than you’d ever suspect based on its plot synopsis and somewhat gimmicky concept.
A smart script is brought to life by a stellar and soulful performance from Willis. He’s likable, relatable, and a sympathetic protagonist you’ll really root for.
Originally released as a Horror Pack exclusive, you can now rent the film for under $1 via Prime Video or purchase it for under $5 (I recommend the latter as it has a high rewatchability factor). You don’t need to see Livescream to enjoy Livescreamers, as the two are linked only by their high-level concept.
However, both films are highly enjoyable and a must-watch for video game enthusiasts or just anyone looking for something truly unique and memorable in the genre.