Last month, while attending the North Bend Film Festival, I had the chance to immerse myself in a few upcoming VR Experiences sponsored by Altspace VR and Microsoft MR at the Campfire Lounge at North Bend Train Depot. Ranging from aliens to cults, there was something for everyone, and though I didn’t get the chance to experience all the VR offerings available, I did get to check out three, and as a whole, I was left rather impressed with the state of VR technology. Read on to learn more about my experiences and make sure to keep an eye out for these in the future!

DINNER PARTY
Puerto Rico/USA | 2018 | 13 minutes
Angel Manuel Soto, Charlotte Stoudt, Laura Wexler | | Key Collaborators: Rachel Skidmore, Bryn Mooser, Erik Donley, Ryot Studios

Description: Based on true events, this experience tells the story of Barney and Betty Hill; an interracial couple who in 1961 broke national news as the first reported extraterrestrial abduction in history. Trying to cope with the residual scars of their experience, they unexpectedly decide to seek out answers from an old tape record while hosting a dinner party. (via North Bend Film Festival website)

Thoughts: Going into this VR, I had very little knowledge of what it entailed, which made for a pleasant surprise when the experience started. Having always been fascinated with accounts of extraterrestrial encounters and abductions, DINNER PARTY showcased a true account of one couples experience in a way that I think worked perfectly well with the VR technology. Transitioning from a dinner party to an otherworldly space, the VR allowed me to immerse myself among the stars as the voices of Mr. and Mrs. Hill’s accounts rang in my ears. As I swirled around in my chair to take in the visuals, I felt as though I was completely encompassed in a world that was foreign to mine even though I was seated in a train station in North Bend, WA. Though I never felt scared, there were moments of uneasiness as I took stock in what the Hill’s were re-telling. As a whole, I thought the entire execution of DINNER PARTY was done brilliantly, allowing for a tinge of horror to creep in among the beautiful visuals. In the end, I felt sad for the Hill’s, for what they experienced, and how that experienced shaped them afterwards, but I’m grateful that DINNER PARTY is a vessel in which their stories will carry on for years to come.

THE ORACLE
USA | 2018 | 15 minutes
Ava Lee Scott | Key Collaborator: AltSpaceVR

Description: In this social VR experience, users will discover the oracle of AltspaceVR: Annabellee. Each Querent will be invited to her sacred space where, through the Major Arcana Tarot Cards, she will reveal their past, present and future. This VR experience is one branch on the tree of life that makes up the Annabellee Experience, taking place across the festival weekend (via North Bend Film Festival website)

Thoughts: Throughout the festival weekend, an immersive event titled the Annabellee Experience was taking place for select guests; however, for those who wanted a taste of what it entailed they could meet with Annabellee through the use of VR where they would have the chance to get their cards read. In theory, I absolutely loved this concept, however, I felt the execution could have been better performed. The animation used seemed dated compared to the other VR experiences that I have done, and though I understood what they were trying to accomplish, it didn’t translate as smoothly as it could have. I did enjoy having my cards read and it was rather interesting to see the Oracle interact with me in real time as opposed to an automated message. I think with a bit more work on the presentation of this experience, as well as being more up-to-date with the programming that VR offers, I think THE ORACLE could really be something special. Regardless, this experience helped in bringing my whole ANNABELLEE experience full circle (more on that later!).

THE CARETAKER
USA | 2018 | 13 minutes
Jacob Wasserman, Nicolas Pesce, Adam Donald | Hidden Content, RealMotion VFX

Description: After a couple’s car breaks down on the side of the road, they are forced to seek refuge in an ominous hotel manned by a mysterious bellhop. As they explore the dark crevices and secrets of its halls, the girlfriend begins to feel that something is off. As she dives deeper into the darkness, she fears that there is more than just getting their car fixed at stake (via North Bend Film Festival website)

Thoughts: Out of all the VR that I did at North Bend Film Fest, THE CARETAKER was by far my favorite. As a massive fan of Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother, Piercing), I was looking forward to seeing how he would translate this story for the use of VR. Not only were the visuals absolutely breathtaking, but the story itself was filled to the brim with tension as we watched first hand as the girlfriend came to understand why she and her boyfriend were at this hotel to begin with. Drenched in red hues with animals iconography and an ominous hotel staff, I found my heart beating ever-so harder as each layer of the story was peeled back to expose the truth. As with DINNER PARTY, I felt completely immersed in the story as if I was in the hotel with this couple as everything was beginning to come to life. There was definitely a voyeuristic feel to this experience as opposed to the others which made it uncomfortable at times because you knew there was nothing you could do to stop the outcome. I hope that THE CARETAKER gets a wider release as I feel this is a VR experience that horror fans far and wide will come to love.

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Shannon McGrew

Founder/Editor-in-Chief at Nightmarish Conjurings
Shannon is the Founder of Nightmarish Conjurings and a lover of all things horror and haunt related. When she's not obsessively collecting all things "Trick 'R Treat" related, or trying to convince everyone that "Hereditary" is one of the greatest horror films ever made, you can find her designing interiors for commercial restaurants. An avid haunt fan, Shannon spends the entire year visiting haunts and immersive experiences throughout the Southern California area and hopes to one day design her own haunted attraction.
Shannon McGrew
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