Haunting Melissa Is A Film. It’s Not A Game. Right?


Last week at the Essex Restaurant, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Neal Edelstein, the producer of  “The Ring” (along with David Lynch’s excellent “Mulholland Dr.” TV movie). Mistakenly, I thought Edelstein had a game to show me. Instead, he brought an iTunes app called “Haunting Melissa.” Shot in Canada, it’s a carefully filmed, episodic Blair Witch-like horror story that also features some elegant outdoor shots that remind me of a Terrence Malick film.

So why constuct an iTunes app for the movie rather than something for YouTube or Machinima. “I like them, but I don’t want to deal with banners and bullshit,” said Edelstein.

And why not add gaming elements? Edelstein sat forward in the booth and said, “I love games, but I think that the element of interactivity can take you out of the story. For this one, I wanted it to be more of a movie.”

That’s completely understandable. While I always believe a very good movie can be enhanced by a very good game, the Hollywood-meets-games path can be a rocky road indeed. I spent a fair amount of time in “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” on this topic, following the arc of hopes of gamemakers to create interactive filmic content since back in the 1970s. It rarely works well (although when it works as Telltale’s The Walking Dead game, it’s wondrous). The new “Star Trek” game proves that it’s still difficult for developers who love a branching experience to work in tandem with film people who know a linear experience.

Yet there are unexpected, game-like elements in “Haunting Melissa.” On the interface in one of the clickable chapter photos, you’ll sometimes see a ghost in the window. And sometimes, the ghost won’t be there. It’s just another thing that creeps me out about “Haunting Melissa” – in a good way. The first eerie chapter full of things that go bump in the night is free. Put those Beats on!

Harold Goldberg is the founder of The Circle. He has written for The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Wired.

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