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'Haunting Melissa': App-only film delivers horror to mobile

Neal Edelstein, producer of "Mulholland Drive" and "The Ring," creates an episodic horror film experience specifically for iOS.

Hooked Digital Media

In recent years, we've seen people dabble in bringing a narrative film experience to mobile phones. It makes sense -- there's an interactive personal screen in your pocket that allows you to pick up content wherever you go. But neither the interactive film "Tender Loving Care" (starring John Hurt) nor the Dutch film "App," which interacted with your iOS or Android device during cinematic screenings, picked up much traction.

"Haunting Melissa," by film producer Neal Edelstein, might have what it takes. Available globally as a free app on iOS, the film is accessible, and it's using the flexibility of mobile devices to experiment with the genre.

The film is actually split into 11 episodes (as far as we can tell), and you'll never know when the next episode will be delivered to your phone. At the time of this writing, only the first episode has been released -- and, interestingly, the app seems to have disabled both a timer on the video (so you have no idea how long each one will be) and fast-forwarding (so, no matter how tense it gets, you have to either keep going or stop entirely).

You also can't just stop mid-episode and hope that eventually the new ones will come to you; each episode is on an unspecified timer that doesn't start until after the current episode has been viewed to the end.

The story picks up with someone talking about a girl named Melissa. She has disappeared, and no one knows how or why (although the trailer below might give away a clue or two). Something went wrong -- her mother went mad -- and, through a series of flashbacks filmed in the cinema verite style popularized by "The Blair Witch Project," you will slowly discover the events of Melissa's life leading up to her disappearance.

Edelstein, who has worked with David Lynch both on "Mulholland Drive" (as producer) and collaboratively on, is pretty au fait with innovative, non-linear ways to tell stories. He created the app's publisher, Hooked Digital Media, for telling stories in unconventional ways.

"I wanted to tell a ghost story, but what I didn't want to do is take a movie and just stuff it inside an application," Edelstein told Collider. "I wanted to really think about telling a story in a completely different way to leverage the architecture, to leverage the device, to leverage the technology. And what does that mean? Basically, a ghost story that comes to you in pieces, so it could be Friday night, 20 minutes; Wednesday afternoon, 5 minutes; it could then be Thursday, 20 minutes, again. So it's this story that's evolving, and you don't know when it's coming at you."

"Haunting Melissa" and the first episode are free from the iTunes app store. Subsequent episodes will cost $1.99 each, or $10.99 for a standard-resolution season pass.

(Source: Crave Australia)