Dave Alpert’s and Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment has teamed up with Los Angeles-based interactive horror theater company Delusion to produce a virtual reality (VR) horror series based on a story from Delusion writer and director Jon Braver.
Delusion is known in the Los Angeles area for its annual Halloween horror plays that actively involve the audience, making them participants in horror mysteries as they play out in haunted houses. “Perhaps you will be shoved into a coffin,” read a recent review of this year’s installation in Laist. “Perhaps you will have to give your wrist to a vampire to feed off of it. At one point you are called upon to use the powers you didn’t even know you had.”
Braver has been looking to expand his franchise for some time, and originally approached Skybound to turn Delusion into a comic book. However, the folks at Skybound immediately realized that there might be a better medium for an interactive horror show. “It made a lot more sense as a VR project,” said Skybound’s Director of Media Development Rachel Skidmore.
That’s in part because VR uniquely lends itself to the horror genre. Things are just a lot more scary when you feel like you are right there, and a haunted house is an ideal scenery for an immersive VR experience that plays with sounds from unknown sources and objects taking on a life of their own. “You can look behind yourself, but you may not want to,” joked Skybound’s Director of Digital Programming Mike Cruz.
But there’s also a direct lineage between theater — be it performed on stage, or in a haunted house — and virtual reality. “There is a lot of similarity between these two mediums,” argued Cruz. That’s because both give more agency to the audience as a traditional film that directs one’s point of view with every framed shot. “Ultimately, you are creating a little bit of a sandbox for people to look where they want,” he said.
Skybound and Braver are now working on a new story that’s based on Delusion’s 2014 play, “Lies Within,” which was set in the South of the late 1940s. The VR series will introduce two new characters that follow their favorite author, and offer interactivity and options for viewers to choose their own path. Shooting is set to begin in early 2017, and the series is going to be produced by Skybound in conjunction with Witty Acronym.
Skidmore and Cruz, who are both part of the production team for the project, didn’t want to reveal too much about Skybound’s exact release plans for the series, arguing that a lot of these things are still in flux across the industry, as studios try to figure out the appetite and attention span their audiences have for VR content. “Everyone is trying to crack that code,” said Skidmore.
That’s not only because the medium is still very new, but also because there aren’t any established ways of actually measuring audience participation. “A lot of what we know now is very speculative,” said Cruz, likening it to the early days of online video.
However, the folks at Skybound have no doubt that the interest in VR is there, and growing rapidly. “I wouldn’t call it experimental anymore. It’s becoming very real,” said Skidmore.
Skybound Entertainment was founded in 2010 by Robert Kirkman and David Alpert, and is also being led by managing partner Jon Goldman. Some of the company’s TV success stories include “The Walking Dead” and “Outcast.” More recently, Skybound has also embraced virtual reality, and produced one of the genre’s first serialized dramas called “Gone.”