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‘The Hills Have Eyes’ Director Alexandre Aja Goes VR With ‘Campfire Creepers’

Longtime horror film director Alexandre Aja is getting ready to make his mark in virtual reality (VR) with “Campfire Creepers,” a new mini series of scary campfire stories. The series is premiering at the Tribeca film festival this week, and will also come to the Oculus Rift and Gear VR headsets this weekend.

One of the first two episodes of “Campfire Creepers” stars Robert Englund, who is best known for playing Freddy Kruger, while the second episode plays with the dynamic between camp counselors and the children they are entrusted with — and the things that can go wrong when tensions between the two groups rise in the middle of the forest, on a full moon night.

“All storytelling started around the campfire,” Aja told Variety this week. The director, who is best known for horror flicks like “The Hills Have Eyes,” “High Tension” and “Piranha 3D,” had never done any VR work before, but said that he quickly fell in love with the medium. “It’s the perfect technology for awe,” Aja said.

That’s in part because viewers who have a headset strapped to their face can’t cover their eyes, or hide their face behind a pillow once the full moon takes effect, summoning scary creatures. “We could have made something that was really traumatizing,” he admitted. Instead, Aja decided to go for what he called “a comfortable type of awe” — a more campy approach that plays with the tropes of the genre without any explicit gore.

The work on “Campfire Creepers” began in 2017 with Los Angeles-based cinematic VR startup Future Lighthouse, the studio that was also behind the animated VR film Melita. However, Aja had to shift gears a bit when the company ran out of funding, with Dark Corner picking up the slack. The project also received funding from Oculus. “Our role is to continue to elevate the craft of VR,” said Oculus executive producer Yelena Rachitsky.

As for Aja, the director professed that he had caught the VR bug while working on this project. “As a director, I’m always looking for immersion,” he said. That was true even for his traditional movies, he said, but VR had the potential of bringing immersion to a whole new level. Said Aja: “VR may be the tool we have been dreaming about for so long.”

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