[Cinepocalypse 2019 World Premiere Review] Deadcon is a YouTuber's Nightmare
The fame monster consumes people. Uses them. Spits them out. Rinse and repeat. Whether you’re a famous movie star or a young YouTuber trying to stay relevant in an ever-changing and demanding world, it’s only a matter of time until you’re used up and…boom. Gone. Onto the next. Deadcon takes this idea to the extreme by imagining a literal ghost in the machine that wants friends…anyway possible.
In a brief cold open, we’re presented an old school chat room in 1984. A man named John is working on a brand new concept: the first internet chat room. Unfortunately, the financiers have lost interest. But before the plug is pulled, an entity named Bobby joins the chatroom and wants John to help him make friends in the real world.
We’re immediately thrust into The Now at a YouTube convention called Viewcon. Ashley (Lauren Elizabeth) also known as…well AKAshley is checking into a hotel with her manager Kara (Mimi Gianopulos) in tow. Unfortunately, the hotel double-booked the rooms on accident. She does what any YouTuber would do and livestreams it; her screen filling with heart emojis and responses, some inappropriate. But Ashley looks apathetic. Spent. After fighting with the hotel manager, Kara manages to get them into a suite…but the suite has a history.
When Ashley is shown the room, the concierge won’t enter. He leaves the suitcases at the doorway and leaves, not even waiting for a tip. The closet is freezing. The lights randomly turn off. And she finds an old Polaroid with the name Bobby, the year 1984, and an odd symbol on the back.
While Ashley is dealing with a creepy hotel suite, next door, another YouTuber named Megan (Claudia Sulewski) is dealing with a different kind of scary situation: boys. She’s seeing fellow YouTuber Ricky (Lukas Gage), but since he’s a successful vlogger, he’s always out of town on his own adventures. So Megan’s been seeing Dave (Keith Machekanyanga) on the side.
The first day of the convention, Ashley’s off to see her adoring fans. Snap snap. Camera flash. She tries to fake it. Snap snap. Selfies. Camera flash. She tries to hide in the elevator, but the cameras flash even there. She’s tired of living her life for her fans. Being the center of attention to 4 million subscribers. Having to be “on” all the time, both in person and online. She wants to quit. But what she doesn’t know is that a ghost wants to keep her online…permanently.
Deadcon is a ghost story for the YouTube generation and puts new meaning in ghost in the machine. It’s a fairly typical ghost story/possession story, albeit one told through a very modern lens. In the beginning, it has interesting things to say about this new concept of fame. YouTube has leveled the playing field and deleted a lot of barriers to becoming famous.
But it’s a lonely life, something the opening act of Deadcon exemplifies and utilizes to great effect. Everything to these YouTubers is a commodity. Their joys. Their sorrows. Everything must be documented and put online for fans to dote on. For example, when Ashely arrives back her hotel room and discovers it trashed, before she evens enters, she pulls out her phone to livestream her discovery. Not even contemplating that whoever trashed the hotel room could still be in there or what she’ll find inside. If it happens, it has to happen online. How else would we know it actually happened?
In fact, it’s the introduction to Ashley and her fellow vloggers lives that is the most terrifying thing about Deadcon. The kids constantly running by her hotel room, pounding on the door and then running away, giggling. The fact that she can’t have a single private moment in the open without someone snapping an errant pic or begging for a selfie. The fact that she has to plaster a smile on her face, while the world looks at her like she’s an animal in a zoo.
The ghost story is fairly pedestrian, truth be told. It relies on jump scares and things moving in the background. But director Caryn Waechter and her cinematographer Nicole Hirsch Whitaker stage some pretty impressive shots, including a 360 shot of a room under ghostly attack. The problem with the script is that it’s unclear who the protagonist is and it actually sidelines the best actor and most interesting story for the majority of the movie to focus on a character whose story was nowhere near as deep or engaging. That said, it’s a brisk 77 minutes and doesn’t lag. It’s entertaining and gives the ghost a subtle motive that fits perfectly in an age where all we want is validation. And friends.
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