When new teaser trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water—the next entry in James Cameron’s CGI film franchise came out — many viewers felt the footage resembled a video game. As a compliment or pejoratively, that comparison is a bit hyperbolic. Yet it also signals a perceived overlap between the video game and film industries, which increasingly share technological, narrative and visual approaches.
Multiplex screens today are filled with game-like images – there are exceptions, but the sense of green unreality certainly abounds, whether you’re watching an explosive action flick or a well-paced drama. Other ideas also flow freely through media: games and movies alike set their own clocks Matrix-bullet time style effects; both forms shook their cameras à la Bourne; and a virtuoso filmmaker like Brian De Palma marveled at how certain games deftly repurposed first-person roaming cinematics.
And in a more recent development, high-profile games now routinely feature performance footage of film and television stars. The last one is not so surprising, as it was prophesied long ago—sort of. In the October 1982 issue Videogaming Illustratedthere’s the vaguely manic title “ROBERT REDFORD’S VIDEO GAME” and the admonition: “Don’t laugh, we might see one more as more movie studios get into the video game ring.”
Smash cut it The Quarry, the latest horror adventure game from British developer Supermassive Games, or the latest fighter to take on the movies. Admittedly, Supermassive is not a film studio – nor is it openly affiliated with one – but it specializes in horror games with striking cinematic ambitions. The Quarry is therefore a kind of interactive film, and the cast consists of new and established film actors. Skyler Gisondo—who recently appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Licorice Pizza— as well as having a key role in the game Jurassic World Dominion costar Justice Smith, among many others. Performance recording technology registered the vocal, facial and body expressions of each cast member, which were translated into computer-generated facsimiles that players control and/or encounter in-game. Supermassive was assisted in this regard by Digital Domain, the Los Angeles-based visual effects studio co-founded by James Cameron, which has since worked on a number of films, games and TV shows.
Will Byles, who directed and wrote the screenplay The Quarryhe found inspiration in the 1980 summer camp slasher film Friday the 13thand in baroque death scenes Final destination franchise. But the game is particularly indebted to the 1981 horror comedy An American Werewolf in London, which Byles remembers as “the first horror movie I’ve ever seen where I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is funny.'” Speaking to me via Zoom, Byles admires the way the film combines humor with believable relationships and connections. “a real horror.” U The Quarryalso, there’s a mixing of tones: it ranges from maudlin needle drops to low jokes to dire werewolves of their own.
It’s set at Hackett’s Quarry Summer Camp, which boasts the usual trappings: cabins, canoes, corpses floating in lakes. At the beginning of the story, the campers have been driven home, but the teenage counselors are still roaming the grounds. When their own transport home is delayed, they decide to light the bonfire again and seize the night. As they will discover in the coming hours, the vast forests hide many secrets, although Robert Redford’s cameo is unfortunately not among them.