VR and Hollywood continue to dance around each other as John Cusack & Christina Ricci make their VR debut in ‘Distorted Reality’. The ten minute VR experience is based on the movie ‘Distorted‘ which will be out June 22.
Hollywood has been circling warily, using virtual reality as a PR tool (please don’t, we beg you), porting a few scenes into VR as an experiment, but not quite sure what to do with it. Of course, VR has played a major role in the independent film festivals, but it still sits off to one side like the wayward child. Though less so as each year goes by.
As we have done, one can go to the Sundance Film Festival these days and do nothing but VR – which leads to some awkward conversations when people ask what films did you see. Better to ask us what experiences we had.
Hollywood and VR
The relationship is beginning to change as directors take up the storytelling possibilities of VR. And some films such as ‘Distorted’ seem to fit perfectly with the new medium.
According to VR Scout,
The story stars John Cusack, Christina Ricci and Brendan Fletcher in their virtual reality debuts. It was written & directed by Rob King, and produced by Josh Courtney, Travis Cloyd, Kevin DeWalt, Danielle Masters and Rob Bryanton.
In the experience, you follow a woman (Ricci) who begins suffering from a bipolar disorder as she comes to suspect the proprietor of the state-of-the-art ”smart apartment” she and her husband just moved into is using the building’s residents as unwitting guinea pigs for a ”synthetic telepathy” brainwashing plot with dire global ramifications.
A perfect plot for a VR headset. Even better,
It also features a clever use of spatial audio to mimic the effect of having maniacal voices whispering from seemingly all directions, even inside your head.
You’re wearing a VR headset while in a scene where you feel increasing paranoid in your new smart home. We’ve often talked about how virtual reality will create new forms of storytelling – eg., The Wolves in the Walls – but some storylines from Hollywood will feel right at home in VR.
Here’s the trailer for the VR experience.
The experience was shot using 16 synchronized GoPro Hero4 cameras arranged on Jump‘s GoPro Odyssey, Google’s professional 360 video platform.
What the future holds
What ultimately happens in the VR and Hollywood dance is anyone’s guess. No doubt there will be more efforts to use VR as a public relations spinoff.
The most daring work remains the multimedia/VR installation by the Mexican film Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. His remarkable project on immigration, CARNE y ARENA (Virtually present, Physically invisible), breaks the bounds of cinema as a completely immersive multimedia/VR experience.
Director Rob W. King’s approach with ‘Distorted Reality’ falls somewhere in the middle of this of the spectrum. It’s more than a PR project but never breaks free of the film. It gives you another doorway into the storyline – and a way to experience it (through VR and spatial audio) that you won’t get through the flat screen of cinema. It’s a fascinating project that leverages both cinema and the growing power of VR to tell a story.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.