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by Jason Adams

I fear that in delivering this news I will be able to actually see the liver spots pop up on the tips of my typing fingers and travel with sudden immediacy up my arms -- something like a smaller version of that scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the dude turns to a skeleton and dust in ten flat seconds. But throw all the "Old Man Yells At Clouds" memes at me you must, the news that Crawl director Alexandre Aja and producer Steven Spielberg -- who has recently made headlines about the sanctity of the movie-going experience, cough cough -- are teaming up to bring interactive-by-cell-phone "Choose Your Own Adventure" type storytelling to movie theaters makes my thin skin shudder and die...

We don't know much about the horror film itself except that it's about a haunted house and that the very talented horror writer-director Mike Flanagan (Gerald's Game and The Haunting of Hill House) came up with the story. And oh right also that viewers will be encouraged to sit in a movie theater with their cell phones wide open flashing and blinking and buzzing and whirring so they can use an app where they vote on the scene-to-scene outcomes of the film unfolding on the big screen in front of them. Something like Netflix's recent Bandersnatch experiment, but in a theater full of people. 

In-theater gimmicks and horror films have a long storied history, of course -- you could very well make the case that that king of the gimmick William Castle, were he alive today and therefore the world's oldest living human being himself, would've loved this sort of thing. Watching a horror film, like watching a comedy film, usually benefits from the communal experience -- we jump and we laugh and we scream together, feeding off of that energy. How different is this from Castle electrifying people's seats during The Tingler, really? What are your thoughts about this, Film Experience readers?

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Reader Comments (17)

Jason, you do have a way with words! Awesome writing. The once foolproof Spielberg is working my last nerve. After Ready Player One and remaking West Side Story, here comes the triple whammy. Any filmmaker who encourages theater-goers to use their cellphones should be shot--by Patti LuPone herself.

I long for the halcyon days when theater gimmicks were quaint and benign--like when I watched Midway in Senssurround. Sigh.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

A film where you choose your adventure via cellphone?


August 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

This doesn't interest me, but I'm not mad at Spielberg for backing it. Just keep the cell phones off in the other theaters and I'm fine with it.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCash

When I saw The Favourite, after the phrase: "I like it when she puts her tongue inside me" in the whole theater there was an "ooooohhhh", something similar happened with Brokeback Mountain after Alma discovered Ennis and Jack kissing, it was heard an exclamation of general surprise. I don´t think that the communal experience are exclusive from certain movie genres but i get the point.

What i don't get it, and i say this as someone who enjoys experimental works is, How the hell this will be?

You´re gonna be sit watching the big screen and at some point the scene will be stopped with an advertising: "Go to your cellphone to select what do you want to happened next". The people will vote while elevator music is playing, after the results the movie will be reloaded and the winner option will be showned on screen.
That will happened 10 or more times until the movie ends..

Hard to imagine.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

I blame Bandersnatch

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkris01

God help me, maybe it's finally my age, new technology no longer entrances me. This idea makes a mockery of the communal experience, and I wish I could stop it from happening. But it seems we must live through this hellish time.
Turn your cell phone off, and actually live the moment through your senses.
I guess this makes me some kind of Luddite.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I don't mind it as a one-off. I'd be mad if it became a trend.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTony Ruggio

Re: Spielberg

Somewhere Netflix is laughing to itself.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterErik

.... I can't imagine it being any good. And not in a judgemental way. Just in a literal way.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan least maybe we'll be able to vote against a 12 minute one-shot take of someone sitting on the floor and eating pie... :)

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Of course this is a bad idea, but it's also interesting how the presence of Spielberg kinda additionally makes it a bad idea.

If someone like Edgar Wright were attached to this, we might be going, "Okay I'm intrigued." because he kinda knows the temperature of the room.

It's interesting the place that Spielberg now occupies in the movie-sphere. There's no question that the man has made and continues to make phenomenal films. But then he's also kinda the guy who ruined movies and (apparently) keeps finding new ways to ruin them, while also complaining about how movies have been ruined.

August 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRobert A.

I'm sure this project from hell will be pleased to go on without my participation.

August 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Robert A. says it right.

August 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKl

I like the idea of choosing your own adventure but the idea of incorporating cell phone use is horrifying!

August 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I was lucky enough to participate in a theater that aired the old Castle film "The Tingler" where they did joybuzzer a few people as in the original theatrical experience. It was great!

That said, a phone experience in the theater is terrible idea. Much less of a shared experience and more of a shared annoyance.

August 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAxFromMN

I'm pretty intrigued with the idea. People are recognizing that the movie theater serves a different function now than it had for the past century, and they are looking at ways to utilize its strengths that separate it from online streaming and blueray. I like the innovation. Will they execute it well? We'll see. But it won't be the first venture on this scale. I think the future is shaped, not just waited for. So I'll evaluate these developments for their potential, along with their limitations.

August 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKJ

William Castle actually used that very same gimmick in Mr. Sardonicus:
Guests would receive a carboard hand when entering the cinema. Shortly before the end, the film would stop and an usher would ask the audience if they thought Mr. Sardonicus was guilty or not. He would then count the "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" and one of two endings would then be shown.
Alledgedly no one has ever seen the "not guilty"-ending as patrons were quite blood-thirsty.

August 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterstellaVista

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