May 2, 2018 12:40 pm
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Grunge Eye” (CC BY 2.0) by pumpkincat210

Everyone loves a fright, right? Well, the reviews of A Quiet Place would suggest we do. The 2018 release directed by and starring John Krasinski and his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, has been praised by critics and movie-goers alike for being an active watch. Unlike other suspense-based horrors, director and star Krasinski pulls you in and gives us a reason to care about the fate of the family. This set-up forces us to engage with the plot and sit nervously on the edges of our seats as those in the firing line try desperately not to make a sound.

This, for many viewers, is the reason A Quiet Place is a hit. While there’s undoubtedly a place for gore-fests and slasher flicks, these subgenres have been used and abused over the years. What’s more, with modern audiences now used to seeing lifelike CGI and special effects, blood-soaked scenes like the ones in cult hit Braindead look more than a little trite. To cut it in today’s horror world, movies need to engage audiences emotionally, visually and intellectually. In fact, this is something that doesn’t simply apply to directors and producers.

Embracing the Mind, Body and Spirit

Mondo is Selling a Resident Evil Poster” (CC BY 2.0) by BagoGames

With horror hits now appearing in all walks of life, this interplay between the mind, body and heart has become all the more apparent. The gaming industry is filled with examples of this. Prior to the advent of virtual reality (VR), Resident Evil, Silent Hill and System Shock all relied on tactics, surprises and detailed animations. By forcing players to think critically while trying to remain calm was the reason these titles became hugely popular in the late nineties and early noughties. Indeed, if we take Resident Evil alone, the franchise has sold 82 million copies since the original was released in 1996.

Following a similar path to horror action game developers are casino gaming companies. Noting that horror products can only be frightening and, therefore, entertaining if they’re interactive, developers have come up with some interesting concepts. Indeed, when you scan the lobbies of today’s online casinos, horror is both a recurring and popular theme. At Vegas Casino, Monster Munchies is often rated as a hot slot. As well as its five reels and borderless design, the game’s quirky overtones sit in contrast to its eerie undertone. The end result is a game that’s both fun and frightening in equal measure.

Similarly, if you look at another of the site’s slots, Voodoo, there’s an even greater sense of engagement with the theme. Thanks to the “risk game”, players are forced into a situation where their fate hangs in the balance. What’s more, because the outcome is dependent on their luck, timing and logic, the sense of risk feels even greater. When this feature is combined with the ominous soundtrack and dark imagery, you’re left with a game that’s hugely interactive and, in turn, frighteningly entertaining.

Immersion on a Different Level

Beyond the two-dimensional gaming world, VR is now taking our minds to places that were previously unexplored. Nevermind, developed by University of Southern California student Erin Reynolds, is created as starting the “biofeedback horror” genre. By combining Intel’s Realsense camera with a heart rate monitor that can detect changes in a player’s skin tone, the software is capable of creating a dynamic experience. In simple terms, as the player starts to feel tense, the frights increase and the game gets tougher. Essentially, the player is plugged into the game and their emotions dictate the action. This, unlike any game before it, brings a whole new meaning to the term interactive.

Since Nevermind changed the game, a slew of VR offerings has pushed players further into weird, wonderful and, above all, scary worlds. In fact, what’s interesting here is that developers now have the ability to turn movies into real-life experiences. Paranormal Activity VR is a perfect example of this. Putting the player in the middle of a dimly lit house with nothing more than a flashlight, this PS4 game engages all the sense.

From the unnerving sense of trepidation, you feel as you peer around each corner to the physical sensation of moving from room-to-room, Paranormal Activity VR is horror at its finest. Indeed, as we said at the start of this piece, horror is now better than ever and it’s because the people behind-the-scenes are trying to engage all of our senses. Instead of relying on some horrific images or a shrill sound effects, directors and developers are taking a holistic approach which, for us, is making movies, games and everything else in between better than it’s ever been.

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This post was written by Nadia Vella