Looking down I realize two things very quickly. The first is that I am now a woman. This certainly does not happen every day but I don’t have the time to properly digest it because the second realization is crashing in hard and fast enough to distract me, even from this sudden gender reassignment.
Glancing at my now feminine wrists, I can tell they are bound to what appears to be a rusty hospital bed. My brain tries to remind me that this is just a virtual reality experience – that I am in no actual danger – but despite this perfectly rational observation, my arms have become subconsciously immobilized and glued to my sides.
This would be frightening enough on its own, but it’s made all the more terrifying as my digital captor steps out of the shadows and into the light for the first time. He’s about six feet tall, completely mechanical, and looking directly at me with his transfixing, luminescent, eyes.
ABE has arrived. And he doesn’t seem very pleased with me at all.
ABE is the menacing robotic antagonist of ABE VR – an upcoming virtual reality horror experience being produced for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive by Hammerhead VR. ABE began its life as an eight-and-a-half minute short film directed by Rob McLellan – a short film that has now been brought to nightmare-inducing life by the power of virtual reality.
ABE launches into a monologue as he leers over me. While he waxes on and on about his disappointing interactions with the human race, I can’t help but notice the plastic tarps that have been erected around me, or the gleaming array of very sharp looking instruments that his metal hands keeps dancing over.
“I can see that you do not love me,” ABE croons morosely as he selects a particularly nasty bone saw off of the tray. My adrenaline spikes as I notice the blood and realize that I am not the first victim this saw has claimed.
What happens from there falls into spoiler territory so I’ll simply say three things about my experience with ABE VR.
The first is that the whole enterprise is very short. I didn’t time it but it seems to be just under nine minutes – or, basically the same length as McLellan’s original short.
The second is that ABE VR is scary. You obviously are never in any real danger of dissection during this experience, but your mind somehow doesn’t find that information very important to recall when torture is being so heavily implied.
I’ll close with a word of caution. Going into this I wondered how Hammerhead VR would handle the dilemma that is inherit to all horror experiences, but is especially notable for VR iterations of the genre. This dilemma is that, as Hitchcock said, “there is no fear in an explosion, only in the anticipation of one.”
The moment ABE actually tried to harm me in reality the spell would be broken and I would begin to remember my safety rather than focusing on my fear of impending doom. Therefore, in order to keep the horror going the experience does tend to be a tad long winded. However, at its core, it is still an interesting experience in VR horror that headset owners with the necessary constitutions should definitely give a look.
The team has stated that ABE VR will be widely available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in May of this year.