There was more than film unwinding at the 2016 Fantastic Fest. A lobby display by virtual reality studio Dark Corner offered festival-goers a taste of immersive cinema.
Three set pieces, each increasingly intense, demonstrated the wave of the future — which is evidently now. Downloadable short films loaded onto smartphones that are then inserted into a pair of VR goggles, along with headphones, give the viewer a first-person experience.
But you are the victim.
First up was Burlap. You’re sitting in a regular chair. Approximately three minutes of not seeing your body but being able to look around a wooden room where a serial killer is washing blood off of instruments of destruction in a dirty pan. From your angle he’s big and crazy. Eventually he uncovers a dead body in a corner of the room and looks at you like you’re next. Fade to black.
Mule was my personal favorite. In six minutes Mule takes you on a mile-a-minute journey from death to the hereafter. This time your humble participant was seated in a leather-padded coffin with the goggles and headphones in place.
You can see your naked body in a prone position. You’re in a cheap hotel room. A hooker is trying to revive you. You’ve overdosed on drugs, at which point she bolts from the room after rummaging through your suitcase. Next a maid finds you near death. Then you’re in a hospital dying surrounded by angry family members. You die and the family members are no longer angry.
Mule offered two endings. In one version you are buried, and the other consumes you with fire. Keep in mind VR goggles (and the accompanying aural sounds) can trick your mind into believing you are actually in motion.
While you are at the county morgue some thugs burst in, knock out the coroner and reach in your dead body to retrieve contraband.
For the cremation edition you can see your body being rolled into the flames only to eventually float up as smoke through the chimney. You view the landscape like a bird as you leave the mortal coil.
Catatonic exceeds the previous shorts in lieu of the fact that the wheel chair you sit in, to experience the five-minute jolt of being wheeled through an insane asylum, works on vibration mode. You can only see your hands, which are strapped to the wheelchair, and what’s in directly in front or to the side of you. The wheelchair bounces when you’re pushed down a stairway.
The attendant pushing said cart seems to be fucking with you by tilting the chair in directions that make you look at the hapless and scary inmates.
Catatonic has played at a couple of previous festivals while Mule and Burlap are premieres. In a nod to William Castle, the Dark Corner presentation included a nurse to administer your goggles and headphones.
Very effective and a good indication that home viewing habits are about go from YouTube to You Are In The Tube.