Livescreamers (2023)

Not since 2006’s Stay Alive has video gaming been in the spotlight of horror in the way it is in 2023’s Livescreamers. Directed by Michelle Iannantuono, this sequel to the 2020 film Livescream follows a group of streamers testing out a new indie-horror game where all their secrets will be laid bare and the stakes are higher than anyone thought possible.

Streaming and the culture that comes with it has become more mainstream in recent years and a basic knowledge of it is assumed when watching this film. Nearly every gamer has a favorite streamer and the parasocial relationship formed between a streamer and their fans can be toxic and, at times, dangerous. Fans feel that they have a special connection to their streamer and often imagine a deep relationship with them that is completely one-sided and can often be obsessive. Furthermore, viewers often congregate with one another in fan servers, with more eccentric fans speculating about the private lives, relationships, and inner workings of their favorite streamers, creating a version of them that may not exist at all. Livescreamers explores these parasocial connections and the dangers they pose and uses them to add an additional layer of horror and tension to an already terrifying narrative.


livescreamers 2023

For a movie about video gaming, Livescreamers actually has a surprising amount of depth both in terms of its characters and narration. The nine streamers, eight of whom work for fictional media company Janus Gaming, each have their own unique personalities and perspectives and a somewhat complicated relationship with the gaming company that brought them internet fame. Taylor, Gwen, Nemo, Mitch, Dice, Zelda, Jon, and Davey are all avid gamers of their chosen genres, but working for Janus has taken a toll on all of them, and having super-fan Lucy there for a special “Let’s Play” stream of a new indie horror game seems to bring out the worst in all of them, especially when the new game is more than they signed up for. Taylor and Gwen’s relationship is put under the microscope, Jon and Davey’s “bromance” is brought into question, Nemo’s complex relationship (or lack thereof) with his fans comes to light, and even Janus’ founder, Mitch, isn’t above scrutiny. As the group progresses through the game, more and more of their dirty history is revealed and it seems someone, or something, has come for revenge. When the first of the gamers’ death in-game plays out in the real-life Janus Gaming studio, they all realize how high the stakes really are and the only way out of the game is through it.

That isn’t to say the film doesn’t have any shortcomings. While the actors are clearly talented, the dialogue is sometimes stilted and a bit forced, which can make the characters feel one-note. Such is the case with Dice, who, although they have perhaps one of the most complex character arcs, delivers each line with the same level or intensity making it seem as though every moment is life or death. This helps to ramp up the tension between the characters, but it also means that when it is life or death, Dice’s dialogue doesn’t seem any more meaningful than it does at any other time throughout the film. It also means that certain lines and the way the characters deliver them can feel a bit predictable at times, giving the characters a tropey feel, which, while may be intentional, doesn’t always hit the mark.


Livescreamers is split between watching the streamers and the game they’re streaming, “House of Souls.” While the acting of the streamers is commendable and their individual narratives and perspectives create an atmosphere of both fascination and revulsion, a special shout-out needs to be made to the game they’re playing. Created using Unreal Engine, “House of Souls,” is a beautifully crafted game that walks the line between being an immersive piece of horror gaming art and being believable as an indie game. The streamers’ avatars are expressive without seeming too bespoke to each streamer and feel like characters one could actually play in games like “Phasmophobia” or “Demonologist” type ghost-hunting games. In fact, one of my biggest issues with this film as a whole is that, as of this writing, “House of Souls” isn’t a game you can actually buy, which is a shame considering how well-rendered and complex it appears to be.

This film may seem on the surface like a typical slasher film with the premise tweaked just enough for it to feel contemporary, but it’s so much more than that. While the looming danger of being killed by a haunted video game is scary in and of itself, it’s the underlying tones and relevant social and cultural issues that make this film truly horrifying. Livescreamers exposes the dark underbelly of gaming and the litany of issues that come with it. Taylor’s unhealthy relationships with fans mirror real world cases of streamers grooming their young fans and Dice’s feelings of not having autonomy are very real feelings held by many gamers who work under larger teams or gaming companies for little pay and little to no control over their public image. Add to that Janus Gaming’s “diversity hiring policies” and the inherent racism and sexism in online gaming, and Livescreamers becomes not just a horror movie but an allegory of gaming culture and society as a whole. 


In conclusion, this film wastes no time in getting right to the horror but also gives us moments of humanity and vulnerability. There are character arcs in between the splatter and blood and while the characters aren’t always likable, they always feel very human. Livescreamers doesn’t rely on cheap jumpscares or big-budget special effects but on a fascinating narrative and relatable characters. Whether you’re a fan of psychological horror, slashers, or supernatural horror, there’s something in this film for everyone and plenty of layers of terror to unpack.



We watched Livescreamers (2023) as part of the Unnamed Footage Festival.

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