Even if you’re a casual reader of my stuff here on the site, you may have gotten wind of the fact that I’m a huge advocate of the home 3D experience. I’ve written recommendations of 3D Blu-Ray titles here, here, here, and here. For my money, it’s just a better, more satisfying experience watching 3D at home as opposed to the theatrical version, which only works properly under a very strict guideline of factors. (The correct bulbs, appropriate glasses, etc.) At home, you’re in control, and it will always work and look great, every single time.
The thing is, like most of you I imagine, I love hosting movie nights. Making it a joint, interactive communal experience is the whole point of movie going. And when it comes to horror, we’re always looking for the next new thing that will collectively terrify us.
A few weeks back, I stopped by my buddy Dave Parker’s place, and he had just invested in a Playstation 4 VR set up. A few years back, I managed to convince him on a 3D TV after giving him a sample at my place, and I’ll be damned, I think he’s now gotten me interested in investing in some “virtual reality” games and environments.
Now, my experience with VR is minimal. I’ve tried a few samples out. But I’m a scaredy cat. I prefer to keep my horrors on the screen and enjoy them passively. That’s why we love horror, right? Because we can watch it and still remain safe! Last October, during Beyond Fest here in Los Angeles, Dave took part in a VR experience where you could choose between being buried alive or cremated. Neither scenario sounded appealing to me, so I passed! He partook, enthusiastically.
But anyways, he now has the home set-up and offered to give me a demonstration.
I sat Indian-style in the middle of his bed, directly in front of his screen, put on the VR googles and completely engulfed myself in this virtual world by inserting ear buds. Within seconds, and with all your senses covered, it’s very easy to immediately get lost in your VR scenario. He didn’t tell me which demo I was about to partake in, just that it came from a package called “Virtual Worlds.” Alright. Fair enough. I think I can handle this.
My scenario saw me in a cage being lowered into the deepest recesses of the ocean to investigate a long-lost sunken ship. Being seated on the bed helped simulate the feeling of being in water. And it’s truly remarkable how quick you can lose yourself in this projected environment. It’s dark, but you can still see schools of fish whiz by, and the flashlight on my forehead allows me a clear view of anything directly in front of me. I looked down, and underneath me, all I could see was darkness! That’s when I started to freak out.
“Wait, Dave…. a shark’s not going to show up in this thing, right?”
He remained silent, not that I could hear him anyways with the headphones on. But sure enough, I knew it had to be coming. In the earbuds, you’re hearing communications between your crew above, with a mild score underneath, making it feel cinematic. And then my cage got stuck. And something big was suddenly bleeping towards me.
“Dude, I’m serious. I won’t be able to handle it if a shark attacks me!!!”
And after a few tense moments, that’s exactly what happened! A giant Great White, teeth exposed, starts chomping at my cage. I did everything I could to avoid it, which meant not looking at it directly. I figured maybe I can distract it by shining my light in a different spot! No dice. This thing furiously kept bumping into my cage until the entire front of it fell off.
Now, look… the graphics are very CGI, and hence not that realistic, but that’s irrelevant. When you’re completely submerged in this environment, visually and audibly, you fully believe that this CG shark is trying to eat you.
Unbeknownst to me, Dave was taking video snippets on his phone the whole time. So, for your viewing pleasure, here’s 2 minutes’ worth of my reactions to “Shark Encounter,” as I later found out the demonstration was titled.
Despite being terrified and shouting the F word at a computerized shark, I am completely on board with VR technology. In the same way that Dave was inspired to invest in a 3D TV after my demonstration, I am now inclined to start looking into a VR upgrade. Why? Look at that above video! Wouldn’t it be fun to dunk your friends into shark infested waters?
And this is just the beginning. Who knows where VR technology can go, and how horrors will be delivered to us genre fans in the future? But I’m ready to find out!
*Special thanks to Dave Parker for editing the above video