One of the biggest frustrations for horror fans is trying to find something that's original and, well, good. Every time a successful horror film comes out, you can count on dozens of other terrible rip-offs to immediately flood the market. The worst part is that the majority of us diehard fans will sit through utter garbage in hopes of some glimmer of satisfaction. You get to the point to where "good enough" is acceptable.
However, every once in a while, something new and innovative comes along that horror fans should be genuinely excited about.
"Haunting Melissa" is one of those films.
The story of a girl that suddenly goes missing after fearing supernatural forces isn't something we haven't seen before, but it's never been presented in this manner. The concept is so cool and original, it's almost impossible not to be intrigued. Unlike most horror films, "Haunting Melissa" is only available on the iPad and iPhone in an app. I spoke exclusively with creator Neal Edelstein about Haunting Melissa before I took the plunge into it myself.
Mandatory: So this is not a game, correct?
Edelstein: It's not a game. It's a new way to tell a filmed story. You definitely need to wear headphones and crank the sound. Also, turn on your push notifications. It's different because it's so personal with the bits and pieces you get.
Mandatory: How often does the new content become available?
Edelstein: The schedule is actually a mystery. We've built a distribution model and pipeline that is in the cloud 24/7, so you could get 20 minutes on Monday, 15 minutes on Wednesday, 4 minutes on Saturday. Who knows!
Mandatory: I read that the story changes when you rewatch it?
Edelstein: Oh yeah! We invented a technology called Dynamic Story Elements. If you go back and watch, things change. If you saw a ghost in one scene that doesn't mean it'll necessarily be there the next time.
Mandatory: How has the reception been so far?
Edelstein: Beyond my expectations. It's kind of crazy. My target was teens, but it's skewed to all gendered fans. It's been a very fun and rewarding experience.
Mandatory: Do you think they'll be more projects like this?
Edelstein: We're already working on the sequel and we have 10 projects in development right now.
After talking with Neal, I was ready to get started. It was after midnight and all the lights were off, so I popped in my headphones and started the first chapter. While normally I would be distracted by my phone or iPad, "Haunting Melissa" uses the distraction as the medium and creates an extremely personal experience using handheld camera shots and sound effects that are just downright creepy.
At one point there was what seemed to be an older woman singing in a dark, empty room. It seriously felt like she was right behind me. What's cool is that everyone's experience will be slightly different because the next bits of videos are sent to everyone in different intervals and at different times. What's amazing is that no studio was involved. This isn't a theatrical release. This is a new way to experience the genre and, hopefully, is the beginning of many more similar projects.
If you're ready to try it, you can download the app for free here and experience the first chapter for yourself! If you still need a bit more convincing, watch this trailer: