We Used Virtual Reality To Meet Dat Boi Pennywise

Heads up, Stephen King fans: FLOAT: A CINEMATIC VR EXPERIENCE may be coming to a town near you.

Warner Bros. and New Line's Float: A Cinematic VR Experience came to Austin, Texas last night, and it was hands down one of the cooler "activations" (that's the not-so-exciting industry term for these rides) I've ever come across. The experience - which involves climbing aboard an exceptionally creepy school bus and using a pair of VR goggles to get menaced by Pennywise the clown - is one I'd highly recommend, especially for Stephen King fans (and/or clown enthusiasts).

First of all, here's Float's tour schedule. The bus first appeared at this year's SDCC, but will spend the next month on the road terrorizing the cities above. 

Here's the sign that welcomed us to the experience, which was parked outside the Lakeline Alamo Drafthouse in North Austin. If you're in the area, be aware that it'll also be there again tonight (August 11th) from 7PM until 11PM CST. Assuming the line's not too long, the experience itself is brief enough that you might be able to fit it in before a movie!

Another angle on the bus. Bonus points to Warner Bros. and New Line for slapping the perfect license plate on this thing. 

As you can see, the bus itself - a Derry school bus, obvs - has been given a makeover to be as scary-looking as possible. It is, in fact, the least inviting-looking school bus I've encountered since Bible Camp.

While you wait, a flat panel TV shows off some of the cool Pennywise fan art people have been sharing with IT's official Twitter feed. When I arrived, a group of people had just gone into the bus, so there wasn't much of a line. Before I knew it, I had entered...

The Pipe. Yes, that Pipe. Pennywise's Pipe. This small, cylindrical room is the first area you encounter upon entering the bus, and sorta serves as the waiting room for the VR lounge awaiting you on the other side of those double doors. Above, the Alamo Drafthouse's Chris Randleman ponders the series of life choices that led him to being in the Pipe.

While you're waiting, misters built into the walls spritz you with jets of water, and the floor begins to glow. Look down at your feet and you'll see some of the objects left behind by Pennywise's victims. At this point, you haven't seen Dat Boi, but you definitely hear him coming over the speakers.

Here's my Trying Times co-host Katie Shultz, who found the bravery to undertake the Float experience after knocking back a tequila shot or two.

Here's the interior of the VR room. The school bus' seats have been replaced with swiveling chairs. On each: a set of earphones and a pair of VR goggles. Obviously, I have no photos to offer of the VR experience itself (that's not how VR works, Slappy), but I'll do my best to describe it for ya.

Float: A Cinematic VR Experience is basically an on-rails thing that takes you through a few different locations from Warner Bros.' upcoming film (don't worry: none of it appeared to be spoilery). You start off outside Bill Denbough's house, standing in the rain out on the street. Nearby, Bill's doomed little brother, Georgie, is walking around in his iconic yellow rain slicker. You notice a paper boat (the "SS Georgie"), and you begin following it down the street towards It's infamous storm drain. Uh-oh!

Inside the storm drain: why, it's dat boi Pennywise, offering you a balloon and the chance to "float" with him in the sewer. I don't want to give away what happens after you climb in there with him, but I would like to mention the following - Pennywise is played here by It's Bill Skarsgård, and he's damn effective in the role. More importantly, the VR that's been used to bring him to life is very convincing. The backgrounds and surroundings have clearly been generated via CGI, but Pennywise is the real deal, and on more than one occasion he gets right up in your face. Uncomfortably so. It rules.

The VR portion of the experience takes about 5 minutes to complete, and I thought it was a blast. Of course this entire enterprise will appeal mostly to Stephen King fans (and people who are justifiably hyped about Andy Muschietti's upcoming film), but I'd recommend it to just about anyone looking for a creepy little diversion. If you're in Austin and curious to check it out for yourself, definitely swing by the Lakeline Drafthouse tonight any time between 7PM and 11PM. Everyone else is encouraged to catch Float: A Cinematic VR Experience elsewhere during its tour. 

Were you there last night? Did you Float at SDCC? Back me up on all of the above in the comments below!

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