[Featured image courtesy jenniferhaley.com]
My first experience of the world of virtual viral marketing came along in 2001 with the premiere of the J. J. Abrams spy adventure Alias on ABC. What would happen if I typed “Credit Daupnine” (heroine Sydney Bristow’s employer on the show) into a search engine? Not only was there a website for this fictional bank/criminal front; if I gave ABC my email, informational updates regarding the show would appear in my inbox!
Alternate Reality Games (or “transmedia storytelling”) have come a long way from the days of AOL subscription discs and dialup internet. ARG’s bring a fictional world to vivid, detailed life for a fan – and provide buzz, publicity, and email addresses for the studios that care to use them.
As an entertaining (albiet somewhat disturbing) article from Cracked on “The Five Most Insane Alternate Reality Games” puts it “ARGs ask the players to pretend they’re living in a carefully constructed parallel universe that can include fake websites and phone numbers and even real objects hidden throughout the world … usually for the sake of promoting a two-hour movie.”
The ARG framwork has been used to promote films as early 2001 (A.I. Artificial Intelligence). The J. J. Abrams produced Cloverfield (2008) ARG used mystery to build interest, while the campaign for The Dark Knight (also 2008) is remembered as possibly the most elaborate and immersive.
Now a play taking a dark, disturbing look inside a community under the spell of a horror ARG will be migrating from the theater stage to the multiplex screen. According to TrackingBoard.com, Chernin Entertainment plans to develop Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by playwright Jennifer Haley into a feature film. Haley will be penning the screenplay adaptation of her 2008 play. Besides her work in the theater, Haley also wrote several episodes of the Eli Roth Netflix werewolf series Hemlock Grove.Another staple of the horror genre – zombies – serves as the ostensible outside threat in Neighborhood 3. As their children become more obsessed by destroying the undead in a virtual version of their community, local parents find that the lines between real and fake have become hopelessly blurred. The New Yorker review of Neighborhood 3 compared Jennifer Haley’s setting and themes to the works of “David Lynch, David Cronenberg … without feeling derivative.”
Zombies a la David Lynch and/or David Cronenberg?
Now that sounds gross, weird, and very interesting.