VR horror walks a creepy line between VR movies and VR games


VR can make you feel like you’re clinging to the edge of a mountain, swooping like a bird across the rooftops of Paris, or plunging down a 100-foot drop in a roller coaster.

The best VR apps make your stomach lurch and your nerves jangle, even though you never leave your seat. Surely VR horror is a perfect fit?

After all, the horror genre relies heavily on atmosphere and immersion, tapping into our darkest primal fears. The best movie moments are a combination of tense visuals and creepy audio, a slow build-up with a creeping fear that usually pays off with a shocking jump and a splatter of gore.

Imagine experiencing that up close with a Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive, the screen filling your view, earphones delivering immersive sound. If you can’t handle watching Lights Out at the cinema, then VR horror videos, games and experiences might be too much for you. Just like it was for the poor girl playing The Brookhaven Experiment in the video below.

Don’t go into the cellar…

While horror movies are undoubtedly scary, VR horror has the potential to be truly in-your-face terrifying. The immersion is so much greater; your proximity to the screen so much closer. There are already a number of 360-degree VR horror videos you can try, giving you the ability to look around as the action unfolds. The Ring and A Chair In A Room are good places to start.

A step up from VR video is the VR horror game. We’ve mentioned The Brookhaven Experiment on the HTC Vive above, while you can already play Dreadhalls on the Rift, which casts you into a deep, dark dungeon stalked by unseen horrors.

There are more horror games in the works. We’re hearing good things about creepy survival-horror-in-space Routine, P.T.-Inspired haunted house game Visage, plus Capcom’s forthcoming blockbuster Resident Evil 7, which can be played onscreen or entirely in hair-raising VR.

Resident Evil 7 VR

VR horror isn’t for the faint-hearted

Then there’s the VR horror experience — VR adventures that are more interactive than a 360-degree VR horror video, but with less freedom than a VR horror game. For horror fans who like nothing better than exploring a dark house with only a torch, Affected by Fallen Planet can be genuinely scary. While short film Abe VR for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive traps you in a room with a sweet-talking (but psychopathic) robot torturer.

At this year’s Comic-Con, TV show American Horror Story teased its next season with a ‘Fearless VR Experience’ where participants found themselves strapped to a hospital trolley in an old insane asylum. The experience was one of many, translating small- and big-screen properties (including The Man in the High Castle, Suicide Squad and X-Men: Apocalypse), into interactive, immersive content showcases.

Giving you the heebie jeebies

Like any horror movie, VR videos, games and experiences work best when they tap into our darkest fears and phobias — fear of the dark, death, sharks, spiders, ghosts, heights, or getting buried alive. Sit-down experiences that give the impression that someone or something has trapped us or has control over us, can be particularly effective (and don’t require room-scale VR to give you the heebie jeebies).

Which begs the question: are you brave enough to try VR horror?

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Dean Evans
Dean Evans is a long-time gamer and reviewer who built his first PC at the age of eight. He is powered by That Media Thing, a collective of journalists who believe in the power of passionate content.