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Livescreamers (2023) Review – Dark Bridges

I saw Livescreamers as part of the second annual re-vamped Dark Bridges Film Festival, an annual horror film that runs at the beginning of June at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon.

The premise of Livescreamers feels pretty straightforward. Eight online gamers are employed to play a brand new game called House of Souls that’s still in development and hasn’t yet hit the internet’s digital shelves. As they all dig into playing the game, tensions emerge. The game starts to appear sentient, as though it is listening to them, and picking up on their relationship drama. 

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There are eight players: Zelda (Anna Lin, The Bathroom, BaseBoys), Gwen (Sarah Callahan Black, My Sister Sam, Family Values: The Rise of Anthony Morelli), Taylor (Coby C. Oram, Gizmo, Shred of Decency), Davy (Evan Michael Pearce, Squelch, Chronicles of Chromaria), Jon (Christopher Trindade, Detroit Evolution, Worst Laid Plans), Mitch (Ryan LaPlante, Johnny Z, Holy Hell), Nemo (Michael Smallwood, Halloween Kills, Seven Deadly Synths), Dice (Maddox Julien Slide, Gone For the Day, Ghost Works Grey), and Lucy (Neoma Sanchez), a fan invited as a guest. All of the players except Lucy work for a company called Janus Gaming with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Livescreamers, written and directed by Michelle Iannantuono (Detroit Awakening, Psychoacoustics) is a sequel to 2020’s Livescream, which was also written and directed by Michelle Iannantuono. I hadn’t seen Livescream, about a fictional popular video game streamer who plays a deadly haunted video game for laughs and ends up getting more than he bargained for. But the film’s semblance to other content creator-based films I’d seen recently like Deadstream made me curious.

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Are the majority of Livescreamers’ characters terrible people? Yes. Are we going to watch in horror as they get killed off in increasingly gory ways, pitted against each other in a struggle to the bitter end? Also, probably yes. Are we going to laugh at the deaths like most other horror movies? Maybe. But probably not.¬†Livescreamers has plenty of vicious commentary about hero worship and cults of personality. And how the current social climate of content creation in video games is changing. Here’s the unsettling reason why: Livescreamers is probably going to be, for influencers and gamer personalities, just a hair too close to reality.

The important question is, are we as an audience still going to find this film satisfying to watch? Hell yes. The actors create an immersive experience with their characters bantering and arguing. Livescreamers’ House of Souls video game is innovative and dynamic. House of Souls is eerily but beautifully rendered in Unreal Engine, a powerfully built and popular video game creation software.

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I can respect the fact that Livescreamers’ gallows humour will appeal to a niche group of people. Though that’s pretty much clear right from the film’s poster, and for those who have seen Livescream. I like gaming, and Livescreamers appealed to me. And I get the level of “buying in” required by the audience to understand the satire of the film. In the same way that I enjoyed the Saw movies and the Jumanji movies for their ideas, I enjoyed Livescreamers.

Dark Bridges ran from Thursday, May 30th to Sunday Jun 2nd, 2024 at the Broadway Theatre. The four-day festival encompassed a wide range of thriller and horror films from around the world, including locally made films by filmmakers who call Saskatoon home.

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