One of the things that set the Overlook Film Festival apart from other film fests is its focus on more immersive forms of horror storytelling than just its film offerings. While VR previously played a role in the inaugural year of Overlook, it’s taken a much bigger role as heavy hitters not normally associated with virtual reality came to play. Heavy hitters like Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes), original interactive theater company Delusion, and even actor and musician will.i.am.
If you took the anthology series approach of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and gave it that brutal edge that Aja has trademarked, you have Campfire Creepers. The VR lounge at Overlook offered the first episode, running 12-minutes, which saw the eclectic group of kids from Camp Coyote gathered around the fire, roasting marshmallows and relaying tales of terror. This episode brought the tale of “The Skull of Sam,” and featured Robert Englund as a rather twisted collector of skulls from unwitting travelers through his woods. It’s kid-friendly enough until it’s revealed just how Englund’s character goes about collecting those skulls.
From Englund’s presence to the sort of ‘80s old school vibe, Campfire Creepers is a pretty entertaining anthology on its own. Since Aja sought out to create a more immersive experience, you can bet that he leans heavily into the 3D, 360 experience. The POV perspective of the victims stuck watching their own demise, or even the marshmallows shooting into your vision as the campers roast them in the fire, it’s a fun addition to an already fun concept. It’s the same type of fun humor Aja displayed with 2010’s Pirahna 3D, in camp and gore, making Campfire Creepers feel like a spiritual cousin.
Produced by Oculus and Future Lighthouse, and distributed by Dark Corner, Campfire Creepers is an experience fans don’t have to wait for. “The Skull of Sam” and the second episode, “Midnight March,” are available now through the Dark Corner app for Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. There’s currently no determined number of how many episodes there will be, however, or if Aja will return for more.
Masters of the Sun
Also available in the VR lounge were the first few episodes of Oculus Studios’ 13 episode interactive comic book series from the mind of will.i.am. It’s a stylish story about a hip-hop group from East LA that must battle an ancient god who is turning black drug dealers and gangsters into zombies. It’s a fun story that’s not without its kinks; Masters of the Sun’s primary means of progressing the story is by having its player focus on specific items. Sometimes finding those items isn’t as easy as it should be, leaving you to spin around the room until you finally find the item needed to move the story forward. It’s also not a very engaging means of interacting with the comic. Of the four or so episodes demoed, only one sequence that allowed the viewer to aim and shoot at a zombie felt organic.
Lackluster interactivity aside, will.i.am does pace out the short two-minute episodes really well, leaving the view with just enough to seek out the next episode for answers. Even more surprising is just how many stars appear. Queen Latifah plays a major role, but Jamie Foxx, Jamie Foxx, Ice-T, Jason Isaacs, and comic book executive Stan Lee all lend their voices as well.
Delusion: Lies Within
Based off 2014 immersive theatrical performance, the original immersive play Delusion’s Lies Within, in Los Angeles by co-writer/director/creator Jon Braver and co-writer Peter Cameron (writer of upcoming Amazon show Carnival Row), this VR experience made its world debut at the Overlook Film Fest. It also happened to be the longest experience offered, at around 35 minutes. The VR series from Skybound Entertainment is a fully immersive, 360 degrees episodic story, that’s set in 1947 as fans Daniel and Victoria seek out their favorite author Ella Fitzgerald who’s gone missing before the release of her final novel in her dark fantasy series. Their search for her leads them to a creepy old house that holds nightmares straight out of her novels.
The visual design of the house’s inner workings and inhabitants is amazing. From the gruesome alchemists to the fire demon, it’s like being dropped into the middle of an expansive world begging to be discovered. While the VR experience does show its seamlines every once in a while, if you happen to be looking just the right direction, it’s a captivating story that hooks you almost instantly.
The only true downside is that the demo ended on a major cliffhanger, at the tail end of an episode that featured the creepiest room of the house yet; a dining hall of ventriloquist puppets. With this being the brand new unveiling of Lies Within, news of further episodes and wider distribution have yet to be revealed, though that’s promised to come soon.