Guy Shelmerdine might start being labeled as The VR Horror Guy. At least in the slightly gimmicky, filmmaking realm. His last VR endeavor, Catatonic, had its viewers literally shuffled around in custom-built wheelchairs as they strapped on the VR headset and accompanying headphones. As the film itself took place inside of a chaotic psychiatric ward and the chair emanated jolts from the appropriately named ButtKicker™, Shelmerdine ushered a new type of VR horror: one that actually exists all around you, and succeeds in making you feel trapped. In Shelmerdine’s newest experience, that trapped feeling is being explored again, but this time to a more intense, claustrophobic extent. In Mule, you’re ushered into a coffin.
The experience devolves into something horrifying
Currently screening at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, Shelmerdine’s Mule puts the viewer into the body of older pudgy gentlemen. Initially conscious and shaken awake by a half-naked woman, it doesn’t take long until the experience devolves into something horrifying. Soon, the viewer’s body becomes a corpse (thanks to some eerie convulsing), and rendered unable to move or see anything that is going on around them, only what is straight ahead. Being literally trapped within a coffin probably amplifies this experience—Shelmerdine told The Creator’s Project that someone actually wet themselves due to sheer terror, so now it’s recommended that viewers use the restroom prior to watching.
Mule, Catatonic, and another serial killer thriller entitled Burlap, are all being distributed through the new VR film studio Dark Corner, helmed by Shelmerdine himself. There are five more (likely terrifying) VR experiences coming eventually from Dark Corners, who have teamed up with the audio design company Q Department and visual effects innovators The Mill. One of the experiences is said to experiment with room-scaled VR, according to The Creator’s Project.
“I’m looking to explore provocative, thrilling experiences,” Shelmerdine told The Creator’s Project. He cited how he views VR as a rollercoaster as an example. Not as a literal one, but as a type of experience that takes you along its exhilarating train-like track, similar to that of a thrilling loopy theme park ride. VR provides the viewer with full immersion. By stepping outside the headset-enabled space to make the viewer feel more at one with the medium they’re experiencing—like tossing them into a coffin or binding them to a wheelchair—well, that sounds pretty immersive, and scary, to me.
If you’re at Fantastic Fest, you can check out Mule and Catatonic for yourself. If not, you can check out more of Shelmerdine’s work here.