by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Aficionado of Undead Entertainment…
Ever watch a horror film and yell at the characters, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Well, smarty, now you can put yourself in the characters’ bloody shoes with the online zombie flick The Outbreak…
The interactive horror short lets you make key decisions for the characters and see the results. For example, in one scene an annoying character breaks her leg while zombies are attacking. If this were a normal film, you might be cheering loudly for the zombies. In “The Outbreak,” the action freezes and you’re presented a choice: “save her” or “leave her.” Make the right choice, and the film continues with more critical choices. Make the wrong choice, and you get one final scene before the words “YOU DIE” appear on screen. But just like the zombies, you aren’t dead forever. You can start the film over or click on a chapter menu to see your film path to that point. You can then re-view a scene and change your mind.
My client Lynn Lund and her husband, Chris, created both “The Outbreak” and the site. I wrote the press release and low-budget marketing plan. I’m also now encouraging Lynn and Chris to make their next interactive flick a romantic comedy, since I’m more likely to yell at a nonsensical film like “Knocked Up” than at a horror film. But that might just be me.
Other Interactive Films…
I’m also a sucker for interactive stories. At Expo ’74 (The World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington), I remember seeing “Kinoautomat” (aka “One Man And His World”) a full-screen interactive movie from Czechoslovakia. Each seat in the theater featured a red button and a green button. A live actor hosted the film, and she interrupted it at several points to ask us to vote on what the character should do next. We would press the button corresponding to a choice, and the film would follow that path. Unfortunately, Czechoslovakia’s then Communist government put the kibosh on both the film and the technology, but it’s recently enjoyed a bit of a revival.
So other than films at world fairs, we interactive junkies of the ’70s had only dead-tree media to play with. I’m talking, of course, about the “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories of Edward Packard, including “Sugarcane Island.”
Most online films to date has been old-school linear and not taken advantage of the technology to truly engage the audience. (And just the word “engagement” gets corporate sponsors all hot and bothered.) Now comes “The Outbreak.” Here’s hoping this little zombie flick helps interactive films rise again.
Update 9/24/8: The zombies are a hit. Lynn emails me, “Freddy, our stats are blowing up. We have to switch over to another server by the end of this week b/c we will go over our monthly bandwidth allotment of 1 TB in the next few days (we’ve only been on this server since Sunday!).”
Update 5/20/9: The zombies have been put to sleep, as “The Outbreak” has been retired. You can still find a low-quality version of “The Outbreak” on YouTube.
Related Article: Better Off Undead? The Mysterious Popularity of Zombie Movies