Whilst movies and the art of movie making itself isn't shy when it comes to trying out new technologies and advancing its audiences' experience of a movie how far can the boundaries really be pushed? A number of genre based titles recently are making a complete u-turn when it comes to the age old tradition of switching your phones off in cinemas before the movie plays. Films such as Dutch horror 'App' and upcoming 'Ring' sequel 'Sadako 3D 2' both offer audiences a new dimension by allowing phone users to download an online app which allows the synching of their phones behaviour to coincide with the action taking place on the big screen. Enhancing jumps, jolts and other vibrating features to spook participating audience members.
Whilst the ideas are original and seemingly achievable whether they'll catch on in a mainstream manner is yet to be seen. Horror is often seen as the Petri dish of certain 'gimmicky' technologies but of course the phone itself has been the perfect fit into many horror features over the years. The threat often comes from the lack of signal or loss of phone and with no one to contact for help things can soon become even scarier.
When A Stranger Calls (2006)
A bushy browed Camilla Belle earns her babysitting bonus by avoiding the sinister advances of a maniacal serial killer who gets his jollies by tearing his victims to shreds. The movie, a remake of the 1979 classic, is based on notorious urban legend "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs" whereby the babysitter gets a number of mysterious calls during the night from a threatening caller. More disturbingly the police dispatcher manages to trace the incoming calls coming from another room in the house...the children's bedroom. And a fine example of when those chilling rings echo through a dark, lonely house all those spine-tingling chills you feel manage to accumulate immediately.
Hideo Nakata's massive J-horror hit 'Ringu' has managed to spawn sequels and remakes and spin-offs galore. Not to mention 100's of copycat features looking to create similar success with long black haired school girls. Besides making audiences hesitant of their dusty unlabelled VHS collection and untrusting of their TV's 'Ringu' also startled audiences with its scary phone call warnings from the very dead Sadako. Viewers of a cursed video receive a fear filled death call from the ghostly girl ringing to state quite creepily that they have 1 week to live. Dun..dun...duuuunnnn.
Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson single handedly manage to pull together a self-aware self-referential horror effort that lovingly parodies the genre whilst still delivering on the screams and scares. Drew Barrymore is the surprising on-screen receiver of one such call that'll change her character Casey's life forever, by killing her off before the opening title has even flashed up on the screen. The crazed masked killer Ghostface, whom over the series is embodied by a number of psychos, asks Casey a series of horror-based trivia in order to save the life of her and that of her kidnapped boyfriend Steve. The phone itself plays a huge role in the 'Scream' franchise allowing each killer to mimic the same voice by utilising voice changing technology. And in a time long before iPhones and HTC One smartphone apps as well!
One Missed Call (2003)
Takashi Miike's chilling 2003 horror manages to blend a number of ideas from Japanese horrors in recent times giving us a phone based project somewhere between 'Pulse' and 'Ring'. It revolves around some unfortunate Japanese students who begin mysteriously dying after receiving voice messages on their phones recorded 2 days in the future featuring what appears to be the sound of them dying. That would mess anyone's head up and it's just a shame that elements of 'Ringu' are so apparent in this movie that a great deal of originality has already been lost on the viewer. But just another friendly reminder that those little black mirrored minion's that sit quietly in our pockets can be not only be a small doorway to the rest of the world but packed with scary potential.