Deadcon, which had its international premiere at FrightFest, follows social media influencers Ashley and Megan (played by real-life YouTubers Lauren Elizabeth and Claudia Sulewski) as they attend ViewCon – a convention where their passionate fans can take selfies of them 24/7. When Ashley finds out her hotel room was double booked, she’s moved to a floor where a mysterious tragedy happened in 1984, aka the earliest days of the internet. The hotel staff is divided into those who believe the area to be haunted, and those who believe it to be harmless superstition.
Having spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos as a teen, it’s bizarre to see how much that platform has evolved over time. YouTubers are now branded “social media influencers” considering the massive impact they have on their fans and followers. It’s still the newest way to become a celebrity and is something heavily embedded into current youth culture. Deadcon captures this crazy and often-isolating lifestyle, but the real horror comes from the supernatural, as ghosts set out to torment Ashley and Megan. The pair soon realize that there are scarier things than the drama that comes with their chaotic fame.
Surprisingly, most modern films haven’t caught up with just how much millennials and gen z rely on the internet and social media. Deadcon, however, gets this right with how contemporary its setting is. It also provides insight into how lonely and fed up Ashley is with her constant “switched on” lifestyle, as her ghostly encounters are put down to stress by her managers. Despite this, the film never fully utilizes social media as a storytelling format, which is incredibly disappointing. Director Caryn Waechter said “technology is killing us,” but the film struggles to convey this message as it doesn’t take the social media influencer aspect of its story to its full potential.
Instead, Deadcon is a tale of possession that could’ve been so much more. In the film’s cold open, we gather that a dead kid has possessed a social network in order to find friends – but there isn’t enough story to explain how and why this is happening. The film gives us no reason to care about the ghost boy, nor the influencers he is haunting, leaving the characters to come across as quite vapid. Waechter directed The Sisterhood of Night back in 2014, which remains a fun and enjoyable directional debut that also explores youth culture, but Deadcon completely misses the mark. It’s a nice idea, but its script by Scotty Landes (Ma) is boring and underdeveloped.