If you’re anything like me, your Friday nights often end with you and a couple of friends sitting on your couch, surfing various streaming services in an attempt to find something to watch. Usually, this ends up being a low budget horror flick, picked out of the catalogue with the promise of campy fun, a bit of gore, and maybe a few scares to send everyone home happy. DEADCON, the first film by Gunpowder and Sky’s horror focused subdivision Alter, is a likely pick for a night like this. The movie follows two social media influencers AKAshley and MeganByte (played by real life YouTubers Lauren Elizabeth and Claudia Sulewski, respectively) settling into ViewCon. A room mix-up and a run in with an evil or incompetent (it’s unclear) manager lands Ashley in a room that is haunted by…something. The movie never quite explains whether the hotel is haunted by a boy inside a computer program, a crazed coder, or the vengeful spirits of murdered children. Or maybe all three. At a certain point, does it matter? Spooky stuff is happening.
For what it’s worth, I had a good time with this movie. The acting and camera work were decent, especially for a horror movie in this budget range. The direction, given by Caryn Waechter, gave this movie a feminine quality, which I appreciated. Horror is a genre that is dominated by men (Jason Blum of Blumhouse infamously said back in October that women just weren’t interested in directing horror), and I found the female perspective here refreshing. There is some opportunity in this movie to over-sexualize the lead actresses, but Waechter kept it clean; there’s a place for stuff like that, but I’m just as happy it wasn’t included here. My favorite part of this movie was the score, a mix of 80’s inspired synth and the more modern teen horror sound. It’s all punctuated by this creepy whistle that happens whenever whatever is haunting the hotel appears. It gets under your skin, and really works for me.
For all that DEADCON got right, this movie isn’t without its stumbling blocks. There’s a romantic subplot that doesn’t really add anything, and beneath that there’s also a conspiracy subplot that is only hinted at and goes nowhere. It’s a shame too, because I absolutely love the trope of a disgruntled old man opening a filing cabinet to reveal nothing but a bottle of whiskey, a rocks glass, and a file with nothing but a date written on it; that image is schlocky, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and gets the job done. The movie is also pretty short (clocking in at only 1:17), and I feel like an extra 10 minutes dedicated to that conspiracy plot would’ve went a long way towards explaining exactly what was going on with the haunting and bringing the plot to decent resolution.
Alter as a studio is promising stories about the human condition from a warped perspective, and this is a good first outing. DEADCON made its premier at Chicago’s horror convention Cinepocalypse on June 15th, and, if you’re in the area, I recommend checking it out. Otherwise, this will probably make its way to Netflix or Amazon Prime, where it will make a great choice to be watched with a couple of friends and maybe a few beers to end your Friday night.