Virtual reality offers 360-degree fully immersive experiences that can take the horror genre to a whole new level. It breaks conventions using a combination of images, sound, haptics, and other stimuli. In VR horror films, you are no longer passively watching a story unfold from outside of the frame. You are directly involved in it.
Without a doubt, VR has the potential to reshape the cinematic experience. But why aren’t VR horror films mainstream yet?
Let’s get right into it.
How VR Horror Films Can Heighten Fear
The potential of virtual reality in film is limitless. It enables filmmakers to replicate real-world environments or build ones from scratch, where they can take users on horrifying adventures.
All kinds of innovations have popped up in recent years to elevate VR experiences. Feelreal, which is a multisensory mask, is one such example. It has the ability to simulate hundreds of scents, enabling its users to fully immerse themselves into virtual worlds. Haptx is also another technology that is enhancing VR. It uses haptic technology to bring the sense of touch to virtual experiences.
Using 360-degree views, CGI filmmaking, ambient scents, and haptics, VR films can engage all your five senses—sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing. It makes everything appear more real.
Moreover, VR films offer new opportunities for storytelling. It might eventually give viewers the option to participate and make their own choices in the narrative. You can look in all directions, pick up objects, and select a path. Simply put, you can reshape the narrative based on your choices.
VR Horror Films You Can Experience Right Now
Currently, most VR horror films you’ll see are shorts created by lesser-known or unknown filmmakers. Take the Easter Bunny, for example. It’s essentially a short 360-degree clip of a man wearing a scary mask, which has been viewed over a million times on YouTube.
As you put on your VR headset, you’ll see this creepy man approaching. You can neither run nor hide. You just have to watch him gradually approach you. Although it’s less than a minute long, it’s enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
An increasing number of studios are dabbling with immersive tech too. For The Forest, starring Natalie Dormer, Sony made a VR trailer. Again, you’ll see the story unfold from a first-person point of view. In this case, it’s shot from the lead’s perspective—Sara.
You’re in a tent in the middle of the forest at night. You hear someone calling for Sara. As you look around, you’ll see shadows surrounding the tent. Even though it’s just over a minute long, it will leave you with an unforgettable experience.
Is VR the Future of Horror Film?
The horror genre will most likely continue to explore virtual reality, especially as the technology matures. Although VR can deliver unrivaled levels of immersion, it might never replace traditional filmmaking.
Right now, VR gear is still quite bulky. Wearing VR masks and haptic gloves, you might not last an entire feature-length film. On top of that, you’ll need a lot of space to dive into the VR experience. A traditional cinema won’t be a fit space for VR films, especially ones with 360-degree views.
Viewers might be able to view the movies from the comfort of their homes—that is, if the studios will allow it. However, if they don’t have haptic gloves or multisensory masks, they wouldn’t get the full immersive experience.
Furthermore, VR is a relatively new medium in film and an expensive one at that. Filmmakers are doing what they can with the technology that is available to them. Perhaps once VR becomes more mainstream, less expensive, and less chunky, you’ll see more VR horror films.