In the wave of experimentation that virtual reality has initiated, it’s inevitable that storytellers would turn to the medium as a mode of expression. Excellent documentaries like This Is Climate Change and collectivist artistic visions like The Gate have proven there’s more to it than rollercoasters and porn. Even horror enthusiasts have jumped into cyberspace to put us in the center of their scares. Filmmakers Jacob Wasserman, Nicolas Pesce, and Adam Donald push the experience one step further with The Caretaker, a thrilling VR short that draws from classic cinema while placing you firmly in the future.
“…a couple stops in a creepy hotel for the night…”
The premise is simple: a couple stops in a creepy hotel for the night. The female protagonist finds things a little odd, but the male shrugs it off. A knock at the door reveals his credit card has been declined and he leaves the room to fix it. And then things get crazy.
To begin with, the camerawork is absolutely gorgeous, transforming the scenery into its own character the way Stanley Kubrick depicted The Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Then there’s the weirdness, which carries that uncomfortable David Lynch Lost Highway vibe through bizarre scenarios like running through the halls while being chased by a demonic deer and walking through a room full of yourself to finally wind up in a twisted Eyes Wide Shut/Rosemary’s Baby nightmare. While not really scary in the traditional sense, the film provides enough strangeness to make your skin crawl and thrills to bring that sardonic smile below the headset.
“…a thrilling VR short that draws from classic cinema while placing you firmly in the future.”
The question now becomes: Can this medium sustain a feature-length premise? Hardcore Henry showed us it’s possible. So how does that happen? Do we sit at home in our own isolation tanks or go to theaters where pickpockets snatch purses and wallets while we’re engrossed in goggles and headsets? How does this not become the death of social interaction as we know it? Right now, it’s fine as shorts under fifteen minutes, but what happens when this is how we get our morning newscast? Will we be able to exist in both worlds?
Of course, the danger is what makes it so damned fun.
The Caretaker Created by Jacob Wasserman, Nicolas Pesce, and Adam Donald. Starring Adelaide Clemens, Tom Lipinski, Clara Wong and Diana Agostini. The Caretaker premiered as part of Tribeca Film Festival’s Cinema 360: It’s Right Behind You (VR Experience).
4 out of 5 stars