While attending Midsummer Scream last month, I had the immense pleasure of chatting with Jon Braver, the mastermind behind Delusion, an interactive horror theater company. Along with their incredible interactive plays, Delusion has entered into the world of VR with their first series, LIES WITHIN, based off of their 2014 live show of the same name.
Prior to speaking with Jon, I had the chance to check out LIES WITHIN, a 36 minute cinematic VR experience unlike anything else I’ve done. Once seated with the VR headset firmly planted on my head, I quickly found myself immersed in the mysterious disappearance of famed author Elena Fitzgerald. For those not familiar with the story, it surrounds two fanatical fans who have gone in search of the missing author to learn the truth as to why her series has been left unfinished. What they don’t realize is that Elena’s nightmares have been ripped from the pages of her stories and have come to life in horrifying fashion. It’s up to these two to find Elena and put a stop to whoever is bringing these stories to gruesome life.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Jon, thank you so much for speaking with me today! To start things off, let’s talk a little about your VR experience LIES WITHIN. How closely is it related to the 2014 interactive play?
Jon Braver: It’s the same thing as the play but there’s a lot of updates in terms of perspective and the way that it’s captures. For example, in the play, the audience members were the rabid fans, so I created two new characters, Daniel and Virginia, that would be taking the place of the audience in the VR. They are the ones that we are following throughout the story. We wanted to keep this more like a movie, like a traditional cinematic film/theatrical experience, where Daniel and Virginia have a really cool story that we get to explore later.
The other difference is the sound design and VFX. We can actually really dive into that deeper than we have ever done before, so you are getting everything that I want you to hear, that you might not have been able to hear in the play, because there is so much other stuff going on. The VR is also a lot more intimate, even though a physical experience is the most intimate, in that in this setup you have no choice but to stay in it.
Nightmarish Conjurings: As an interior designer, I was blown away by the set design and the house that the story takes place in. How did you find such a beautiful mansion to film in?
JB: We found the place in West Adams, Los Angeles, which actually used to be the Beverly Hills of LA a long time ago. There are these giant mansions located there and though they aren’t necessarily abandoned, they are rented out for film and television. I had a location scout go out and look for crazy places that would work for these stories I’m trying to create and the scout sent me a picture of this mansion. I had this story, about a missing writer, and once I saw that place, it was as if the idea planted itself inside the house and I dove right in. It was as though the main character, Elena Fitzgerald, had been living there for a long time already. Right when I saw the house I was like BAM, that’s it, and we shot both the VR and the live show there.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What made you decide to transition from live shows into VR?
JB: I initially didn’t want to do that, I wanted to shoot this as a traditional feature, which we still might do at some point. Dave, who is my producer/partner on this, was like “We have this book, this whole thing is centered around this series that this woman created, imagine having the book open in front of the audience and then them diving into the stories and the illustrations” which made me consider how cool that would be. It was really the image of going into this book, physically being swallowed into this book, that made me think about checking out the VR thing. Having never really done VR, I checked out a bunch and the ones I saw looked like shit, so I knew if we were going to do this that it needed to be done in the most cinematic way possible.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Once the VR was decided upon, how long was the process from conception to execution?
JB: For Season 1, we wrote it over a period of 8 months and shot it in 7 days both in Los Angeles, the Topanga Canyon, and at the house. After that, it was a year of post-production because no one knows how to do VR in post. The whole post-production pipeline is shit, it’s just all over the place, so we had to figure that all out. For Season 2, which will be another six chapters, we have finished the writing portion.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Was there a specific reason in choosing LIES WITHIN as the first VR experience as opposed to the other stories in the Delusion universe?
JB: I think the idea of diving into a book and being inside of that world was a story that just felt right in showcasing through VR. We were also able to create practical effects with the help of Jim Beinke, and Academy Award effects guy, and we had VFX accentuation, most notably on our fire creature, who was performed by Shayne Eastin. We went all out for it.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Along with the VR, what else can fans look forward to from you and Delusion in the future?
JB: Delusion is going to be my life, with my focus being on film, television and comic books and directing those. We have THE BLUE BLADE coming out this Fall, which is our latest interactive play, but then we are going to remount all the old shows, so THE BLUE BLADE will be our last new show. Well, I shouldn’t say that, all the other shows only ran for 6 weeks and not everybody got to see it, so they are going to be new to a hell of a lot of people.
For more information on LIES WITHIN VR and THE BLUE BLADE, and to purchase tickets, visit www.enterdelusion.com. (All images are courtesy of Delusion).