Dark Corner has traveled the festival circuit with their two virtual reality narratives Mule and Catatonic, but it was my first time experiencing either at The Overlook today. Actually, it was my first time trying virtual reality at all, and and I can’t help but feel that future encounters will be a letdown after the thrilling immersion of Mule and Catatonic.
I tried Mule first, sitting in Dark Corner’s traveling coffin, a surprisingly comfortable set-up that easily made me forget my surroundings and fall wholly into the narrative. In Mule, you’re living the life – and death – of a heroin addict who overdoses, is rushed to the hospital, dies, peers out at his mourners from his own coffin, is either cremated or buried (I opted for cremation, much as I will in my own death) and then floats away from this mortal coil in the final moments of the experience.
It’s astonishingly realistic, vivid and fully actualized from every conceivable angle. What you’re seeing feels tangible and urgent, and it absorbs you into this perspective much more convincingly than I would have guessed.
Afterward, the Dark Corner rep Teal took me to a table for Catatonic, and told me that viewers usually experience the two stories in the opposite order, as Catatonic was Dark Corner’s first VR endeavor and it’s a couple of years old in terms of technical quality. That, plus the fact that I was sitting at a table instead of in a coffin, should have made Catatonic a less effective immersion than Mule, but it still worked like gangbusters. Though it’s true, the experience – of being a patient in a mental institution, strapped to a wheelchair and pushed through the aslyum’s dreadful halls – isn’t as lifelike as Mule, it’s truly affecting and not a little unnerving.
Teal told me that Dark Corner’s working on a new experience that will come out this year, a children’s bedtime story that becomes a nightmare. Be on the lookout for that, and definitely experience Mule and Catatonic if you get the chance.