The Toronto International Spring of Horror festival isn’t content to claim only your evenings. No, my friend—they’re here to keep your blood pumping and skin scrawling from the end of brunch til your midnight snack.
Their Saturday schedule starts not with a bang, but with a chiptune.
Written and directed by Michelle Iannantuono, Livescream is an indie gem that is far more compelling and effective than a 70-minute monologue has any right to be.
Gunner Willis (Ozark) turns in a brilliant and charismatic performance as Scott Atkinson, an affable video game streamer with a couple hundred fans and a penchant for playing horror games. One ‘Scary Saturday’, he boots up a copy of Livescream, a game that was recommended to him by an online stranger and is rumoured to involve audience participation.
As you can imagine, the audience participation component turns out to be a little more deadly than he could have anticipated. This is, after all, a horror film!
The story plays out in real time, as Scott engages with his fans and tries desperately to conquer Livescream’s multiple (and surprisingly varied) levels. As a gamer, I was thrilled to recognize the different inspirations for each level of the horror game, ranging from Resident Evil to Slenderman to Five Nights at Freddy’s to PUBG to the sorely-missed P.T. (which remains one of my favourite horror gaming experiences of all time). But you don’t need to be a gamer to appreciate Livescream. Although Scott is interacting solely with text-based responses from his followers (apart from two stand-out scenes), Willis’s naturalistic and relatable delivery really sells the connection that he has with his fans, upping the emotional stakes and building tension throughout the level-clearing sequences. The film dips into questions of ethics, guilt, and morality during later sequences, but never gets heavy-handed.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible 8-bit-inspired score by Austin Butts, which is truly a delight. I highly recommend grabbing a ticket and checking it out while you can!
Score: 7.5 out of ten mysterious bottles.
Livescream screens Saturday, April 6th at 1:30pm at Imagine Cinemas Carlton.