Real-world interactive elements bring immersive horror to new levels.
There’s a reason the horror genre is so popular among VR developers and 360° video creators. The immersive technology pairs perfectly with the frightening medium, enhancing the atmosphere and jump scares ten-fold. So when an already horrifying VR experience adds interactive physical enhancements to the mix you can be sure things are going to get a bit horrifying real quick.
That’s exactly what the folks over at Dark Corner are attempting with a slew of pants-wetting 360° videos supported by some captivating physical add-ons. In support of their brand new Dark Corner VR app, the horror studio is teaming up with venues to bring their gut-wrenching new content to life with experiences that begin well before the headset goes on. I recently had a chance to visit one of the largest VR arcades in the United States, VRWorld, to check out the bloody spectacle myself. Needless to say there was a lot of screaming, a lot of swearing and a whole bunch of regret.
Upon entering the immersive 34th Street arcade, I was guided towards the lower level of the facility through a decrepit and broken down hallway that eventually lead to a large room straight out of the movie Hostile. There I was presented with several 360° experiences, each featuring their own terrifying physical set-up:
As I was lowered into a real-life coffin only one thought ran through my mind: Oh this was a mistake. Mule has users take the role of a drug addict who overdoses and eventually passes to the great beyond. Throughout the experience you’ll witness all the horror and drama from the perspective of this unfortunate individual as you’re pronounced dead, dissected and eventually laid to rest. You even have the opportunity to choose how you end your journey, whether it be a proper burial or cremation. Spoiler alert: neither option ends very well for you. I like to think I kept my composure pretty well, at least until the coffin actually started vibrating as my character went through a seizure. Fun times…
I actually grew up next to an abandoned psychiatric center that terrified me for years. So you can imagine my joy when I strapped into a wheelchair for Catatonic, an extremely creepy tour through an unimaginably demonic psych ward. You view the experience from the perspective of a wheelchair-bound patient entering the facility for the first time. As you’re pushed through the bizarre structure you’ll witness increasingly disturbing sights from possessed patients to decrepit staff. As you travel further into the asylum things quickly shift as reality blurs into a nightmare.
By far the scariest of the three (at least to me), Night Night is an absolutely unsettling journey into abstract horror. You play the role of a young boy in bed tormented by visions of demonic clowns in an experience that could only be described as the worst possible form of entertainment for someone with coulrophobia (clown fear). Like me… During the experience you’ll be seated in a motorized chair that moves with the actions within the 360 video. For example: at one point you actually rocket into the mouth of an enormous clown monster and travel down through his esophagus. As you do, the chair will pushes you backwards and sideways, simulating the motion of twisting and turning that had me screaming and the staff giggling in the background. It was immersive, captivating and i’ll never do it again.
The exhibit also featured several Dark Corner 360° experiences minus interactive physical elements. Knives is a white-knuckle thriller about a woman scorned by a cheating spouse and a sketchy traveling knife salesman with a gruesome solution to her issues. Peeler is a blood-curdling journey through the workshop of a cannibalistic butcher that’ll make even the most experienced fans of body horror and gore weak in the knees. Finally, Sonar, while not as conventionally scary as the other experiences, places users in the seat of a submarine as they investigate a deep sea trench. There are definitely some creepy elements present throughout and a few jump scares, but I was actually more impressed by the 360° cinematography and atmosphere more than anything else.
“We have discovered (and are fostering) a passionate audience that is excited to be taken into dark worlds that they wouldn’t normally be able to go to in real life,” said Guy Shelmerdine, director of Catatonic and Night Night. “It’s human nature to be curious about who lives in the creepy house at the end of the street, or what lies behind the walls of an insane asylum. Dark Corner’s experiences give our viewers the chance to experience these things from the comfort of a VR cinema, or even their own living room.”
“The interactive elements are a fun way to develop the narrative further in the real world. We have ideas on what we think those elements might look like as we write the scripts but generally they evolve with time. Our partnership with D-Box motion systems has now given us a whole new set of tools to be able to explore immersion with haptic interactivity.”
“There is some fantastic new content from several innovative filmmakers that we are excited to distribute on our platform – as well as in the VR cinemas that we have partnered with – but none that I can announce just yet. We are also continuing to develop our slate of content internally and are forming partnerships with many new collaborators around the world.”
Having a team as talented and widely-recognized as Dark Corner stepping into the world of location-based entertainment could bring a whole new level of attention to the growing medium. Horror is the perfect genre to introduce physical interactive elements, but the possible use-case scenarios for other various types of entertainment is virtually endless.
VR technology studio Positron is a perfect example of the incredible 4D future we can look forward to. Their flagship product, The Voyager, has already been making for its impressive immersive capabilities. The full-motion cinematic VR chair is the first of its kind, featuring motorized yaw and pitch motion, audio-driven haptic feedback and customized seating. Soon you’ll be able to experience the magical chair yourself as Positron launches its Voyager Network program in 2018 which will bring permanent placement of Voyager chairs in select locations.
So there you have it! If you’re a fan of anything horror then make sure you check out some of these incredibly unsettling experiences. For the full effect you’ll definitely want to head down to VRWorld in NYC to experience the physical interactive elements. The exhibition will be running throughout the Halloween season. You’ll also be able to access all of these 360 videos as well as several others via the Dark Corner app available for Android, iOS, Samsung GearVR, Google Daydream, and Oculus Rift. All the above-mentioned videos are available for viewing now, with many more original pieces of horror content on the way.
If you happen to be in LA instead of New York, we’re throwing our annual VR Haunted Carnival where we curate the best VR horror experiences out there, thanks to our friends at HTC Vive and CyberPowerPC.