Catatonic is a virtual reality horror flick guaranteed to scare and startle every part of your body, and now you can watch it for free on your smartphone. The mind behind music videos like Gnarles Barkley's "Run," and Freeland's "We Want Your Soul," Guy Shelmerdine, directed and co-wrote the immersive dive into a depraved asylum in collaboration with Chris Milk's VR company, Vrse.works. Shot from the perspective of a patient strapped to a rickety wheelchair, the 1940s decor and the meticulously outfitted costumes of both authoritarian staff and other patients leave no holes in the frightfest, which is more than we can say for your cheesy local haunted hay ride.
When the experience debuted at SXSW in 2015, it included a custom wheelchair with asylum straps and the Buttkicker™, a vibrating machine that translates all the film's jolts and jostjling into a Disneyland quality ride. "I wanted people to feel like they were climbing aboard a roller coaster headed straight into hell—a ride that they cannot escape from,” Shelmerdine says. “Catatonic offers a glimpse of the overwhelming power of experiencing movies in VR. You are not a spectator. You are IN the film. I built the tension slowly, letting a deep sense of foreboding fill the viewer with dread before anything even happens. The film is a journey towards our darkest fears."
Other Vrse.works projects include Clouds Over Sidra, the story of a 12-year-old Syrian refugee living in Jordan, Waves of Grace, which follows the life of an Ebola survivor, and Evolution of Verse, an animated exploration of what's possible in this medium. Milk refers to virtual reality as an empathy machine, one with potentially more power to sway feelings than any medium we've consumed before. If that doesn't frighten and excite you, then you'll have no problem at all with Catatonic.
Download the experience, which works with or without a VR headset, on the Vrse app.
Catatonic was written by Guy Shelmerdine and Edward Robles. It was produced by Patrick Milling Smith and Chris Milk of Vrse.works, with cinematography by Sebastian Pfaffenbichler, editing by Cass Vanini of Work Editorial, and music by Drazen Bosnjak of Q Department. Stitching and post effects were achieved by MPC VR and Animatronics were provided by Legacy FX. Learn more about the film on its official website. Check out more Vrse projects here.