26th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘Deadcon’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Claudia Sulewski, Lauren Elizabeth, Lukas Gage, Dominic Burgess, Emma Barrett, Kherrington Briggs, Mai Brunelle, Carl Gilliard, Richard Kohnke, Catherine Shu, Jordyn Yarker | Written by Scotty Landes | Directed by Caryn Waechter


The internet has, since its inception and rapid growth, been used somewhat as a tool for telling horror stories, so much so that cyber-horror is a genre unto itself. In some cases these films take a found-footage approach, telling stories from the perspective of webcams; in others its all about the perils of the internet and the “weirdos” living anonymously behind their keyboards. Then there are those films that take influence from the past, bringing the tropes of “ghosts in the machine” into the present through the medium of the internet. And Deadcon is firmly among the latter.

Ashley is a social media star attending View Con, an event where rabid fans can selfie their favourite YouTubers 24/7. But due to a hotel room mix-up, she’s put in a room where a mysterious tragedy happened in 1984, the earliest days of the Internet revolution. Some of the staff avoid the area because legend says its haunted by a young boy searching for friends. Others think the ghost talk is just superstition. However Ashley and her influencer “friends” are about to find out the truth…

And that truth is. Well, the truth is Deadcon works a lot better in the beginning of this story rather than its close; with the ghost in the machine aspect of the film actually being the least interesting part of director Caryn Waechter’s film!

You see Deadcon is much like Graham Hughes’ Death of a Vlogger, both a horror film and a social commentary. Whereas Death of a Vlogger showed us the darker side of internet fame from a new creators perspective – the chasing of fame, view counts, subscribers and followers etc., Deadcon shows us what life is like after the fame, after the view counts, after the huge follower numbers – what life is like LIVING with that fame and the downsides it actually has on mental health and overall well-being. The so-called “YouTuber burnout”.

It’s THAT aspect of Deadcon that is so interesting, so appealing. So much so that when the horror kicks in, and the film focuses solely on it, it loses a little something. A little spark of originality and creativity, a core if you will. Instead of an interesting look at the horrors of being a YouTuber, a social media influencer, and using the genre as a way of exploring that (in the same way Hughes’ film did) we get yet another by-the-numbers haunted house style ghost story. And one that actually makes little use of the technological aspect of it’s plot either – instead of a ghost inside these influencers devices, our villainous ghost spends all his time in the closet. Literally.

Credit where credit is due, writer Scott Landes and director Caryn Waechter do have the details down correct, the use of flip-screen cameras for vlogging, live-streaming on iPhones through YouTube, the obsessive behaviour of fans at conventions (in this case View Con, which is undoubtedly based on the real-world YouTube convention VidCon) and even going as far as using actual YouTubers in the cast. But none of that can make up for the fact this is a been-there-done-that haunted house film – and one that even neglects to ever truly explain the films backstory and character motivations!

** 2/5

Deadcon screened at Arrow Video Frightfest 2019 on Monday August 26th.


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