We’ve come a long way since the early days of horror filmmaking. Back in the late 1800s, when Le Manoir du Diable was released as the first true horror film, no one could have predicted the genre growing to the point of seeing hundreds of conventions and festivals across the world, and horror films becoming major players at the box office. Trends have come and gone in horror filmmaking since the early days, but could the growth of technologies including social media and Virtual Reality be about to change the way we view horror movies once again?
We have been seeing a huge surge in various forms of entertainment utilising technology to create a sense of setting and atmosphere among their fans. Many types of integration has popped up in the last decade, including the film Sickhouse, which was released in small segments over Snapchat – giving the viewer a sense that they were watching a story unfold in real time. The film adaptation of World War Z offered a website designed as a hub for information and emergency broadcasting after the zombie infestation took hold. Increasingly, other mediums are embracing this idea of creating setting and atmosphere in their works. Sites like bcasino.co.uk offer the opportunity to play games with a studio setup recreating a real gaming environment, rather than simply providing computer graphics to interact with. And of course, who could forget the interactive short film Take This Lollipop – which used viewers own Facebook data to make a terrifying point about our relationship with social media.
There’s the question of – will films simply use the technology available as marketing tools in the short term, or will these advancements steer the direction of horror filmmaking as an industry? Will these attempts to immerse the viewer go the same way as gags from the past? There’s certainly been cases where filmmakers have attempted to utilise tech to refresh the format, with varying degrees of success.
Mr. Sardonicus, pre-dating Facebook and Snapchat by over half a century, offered guests the chance to be involved with the outcome of the film by selecting choices the characters would make and playing slightly different scenes based on the audience vote. By the 1970s, horror fans had seen split screen technology, used in the film Wicked, Wicked, come and go. Before it was fully established how video games might translate horror to their new format – there were some outlandish experiments. Full motion video games were the trend in the early 90s, with at least some nostalgia existing for these often very camp cheesy titles. Only last year, a version of infamous home invasion game/interactive B movie Night Trap was announced for the Switch.
The concept of using technology to enhance horror faded away in the 2000s – with the focus being on building universes and multiple sequels taking over. But in the last decade, it’s been making a return. Now virtual reality is accessible to the average consumer, horror fans are finding new ways to scare themselves by inserting themselves into film environments. Currently, this is mostly limited to short films and mobile apps, such as It: Float — A Cinematic VR Experience released to accompany the remake of IT. But as VR enters more of our homes, it’s entirely possible that a fully immersive horror film could be coming. And as VR develops in producing texture, scent, temperature and more environmental factors – we may soon have a horror film in which you can explore the lair of villains, feel the blood spray across your face, or smell the unmistakable scent of rotting meet as the zombies creep up on you!