The horrors of Snapchat and Instagram obsessions spiritually materialize in Caryn Waechter’s techno-ghastly Deadcon. Not the first Wi-Fi equipped genre commentary, but comparatively, one of the cleaner examples of “screen life horror.” Titles like Unfriended, The Den and Tragedy Girls still reign supreme, while other far weaker binary nightmares help to sandwich Deadcon in an entertaining-enough middle ground. A possession story made scarier by Paranormal Activity influences, found footage documentation, and – *gasp* – internet modem dial tones.
YouTuber Lauren Elizabeth stars as Ashley, handle “AKAshley,” a vlogger personality who commands some 40 million subscribers. She’s in town for ViewCon, an annual gathering of the internet’s biggest and most watched celebrities, but complications with her hotel room threaten comfort. Manager Kara (Mimi Gianopulos) steps in and demands employees rectify the double-book, which lands Ashley in a previously unused and once condemned room. Before long, “AKAshley” begins experiencing surreal events within her accommodation’s doomed walls. It’s TechCon ‘84 all over again, where Link RabB1t founder John Althaus (Aaron Hendry) committed unspeakable crimes. Too bad, as Jim Jarmusch recently reminded us, the dead don’t die.
Gunpowder & Sky (through sidearm Alter) produced Deadcon, but no news on release as of yet after its June 15th premiere at Cinepocalypse. In the meantime, here are three reasons to stream Waechter’s convention hall caper.
1. Possession And Haunting Aspects Utilize Fun Tricks
Without spoiling “hows” or “whys,” multiple sequences stage chilling apparition interactions. Invisible hands might lift a slumbering YouTuber’s leg or drag victims like screaming children pulled by parents into time out. You’ll witness twirling hotel desk chairs and bed sheets indentations to signify unwanted guests, but also unexpected physical levitations worth more than oft-employed subgenre shaky camera tactics. These are frequent occurrences as souls revisit a hotel room once caked in blood, working to distinguish a spectral nightmare with an actual bite to back up barking screams.
Then again, it’s the understated details that help bolster in-your-face frights. Those nuggets one might miss if not paying attention when commenters are popping off in chat boxes. Deadcon assertively confirms that technology is the literal devil, as blasphemous elements thrive on “screen life” representations. Even just a shadowy figure standing dead stiff, glaring at whichever character might be in focus. I’m not going to claim this is expert-level horror ruination, but between child vessels and eyes rolling back into veiny white pools, Deadcon creeps more than it crawls.
2. It’s About The Horrors Of Social Media
As a millennial who understands YouTube culture, loathes certain aspects, but is beyond intrigued by online celebrity lifestyles, Deadcon worked to amplify the pains of fame for me. “AKAshley” projects onto millions of smartphones and tablets and laptops daily, yet has herself become disillusioned. After sending a single tweet, replies start clouding the frame as a representation of the followers she’s amassed – but her face blankly stares into space, not answering. These aren’t friends; they don’t know anything beyond “AKAshley’s” brand. Waechter stikes a divide between fictional personas and reality, noting gussied-up avatars are no replacement for genuine self-representation.
Chasing the dragon that is online follower counts plays into Deadcon’s possessive ghost story. No matter how many souls are sacrificed to a child named “Bobby” (with his pink bunny balloon), he always wants more – sinking into this ongoing quest for more power, more outreach. Never checking one’s intentions can lead to this ravenous, unfulfilling hunger. Lauren Elizabeth exploits this popularity thirst while walking around ViewCon floors shoeless, hilariously starting a “barefoot hashtag” trend even though she’s demonically controlled. Social media users blindly follow their Pied Piper despite evil as the root cause. Digitally developed devils are sometimes a bit less savvy when filmmakers satirize logged-in dangers, but Deadcon manages emboldened yet straightforward social commentary.
3. It’s Short And Sweet
It’s not a set-in-stone rule, but cinema’s golden length is 90-100 minutes. Longer or shorter can still work, with Deadcon being an example of an 80-minute speed demon that wastes no time. “AKAshely” arrives, checks into her damned hotel suite, and falls prey to haunted blueprints. Neighboring YouTuber Megan (Claudia Sulewski) finds herself doom-adjacent by staying next door, adding to the danger count by introducing a lusty (dramatic) love triangle. At a longer stretch, my opinion might not be as favorable – but given how Waechter wraps terror tight around her finger, there’s not much to lose giving Deadcon a try.
For what Deadcon attempts, it succeeds based on pacing and executed scares in the same way another social media horror film titled Friend Request does. Mapping compact menace, telling portable ghost stories and committing to forward progress, Caryn Waechter achieves a balance between societal commentaries on brainwashed YouTube subscribers and irresponsible online cult leaders, all while utilizing legit haunted beats more aggressive than some fuzzy digital static. Are there better examples of “screen life” scariness? For sure. Does Deadcon still hurdle those comparable attempts we’ve since forgotten? You betcha. For that I’d click, like, and share this Cinepocalypse debut.