VR Film Review: 30 Minutes of Danger
30 Minutes of Danger is a 360 film that blends narrative with interactivity, one of the first projects of its kind. Based on the fictional novel '300 Minutes of Danger' by Jack Heath, it has received not only the approval but also praise from the author, who also makes a short cameo appearance in the film. Thanks to its VR format, you experience the suspenseful narrative from the first person perspective - which satisfyingly heightens the tension!
The point of view for the story depends on where you look and how you react. You will need to wear your VR headset and headphones. And then it begins:
You are Nassim, a teenaged boy, alone at home with a technician who reveals she has poisoned you. She holds the antidote and demands you tell her where the ‘bloodstone’ is, in exchange for your life. The problem is, this is a case of mistaken identity. You only have 28 minutes. This immersive narrative experience lasts about 10 minutes.
The key creatives behind 30 Minutes of Danger are producers by Melody Ha and Jannine Barnes alongside writer/director Grant Scicluna, the team behind the highly acclaimed feature film Downriver (MIFF, Toronto 2015). The VR format was new to the team but their ambition has certainly paid off with this experiential thriller adaptation!
As an audience member, you need to be mindful when using a mobile virtual reality headset that you will not be getting the same high definition standard as you would except in cinematic widescreen. We definitely have, however, come a long way in visual storytelling and 30 Minutes of Danger is a great example of what our future in art and media may look like.
The set the story takes place in a very complete looking home. It is fully furnished, there is a television playing the whole time, active clocks working and you will be able to see different rooms and areas of the house. Set design is a very important consideration in creating a VR film and one of the challenging differences of the medium in comparison to traditional film. Director Grant Scicluna explained to In Review how it not only requires a lot of attention to detail but the 360 perspective restricts how you set-up technical aspects such as lighting since the audience sees a lot of everything! A lot of natural lighting is used in 30 Minutes of Danger.
The other big point is that much of the film is captured in one-shot, to create the first person, 360 degrees perspective. The acting is brilliant from the minimal cast especially Offspring’s Maude Davey, the terrifying unnamed technician who provokes, poisons and looks directly at you; the audience, as you hold the perspective of the protagonist in a way that’s incomparable to traditional film. Shareena Clanton (Wentworth) delivers an excellent performance also, as well as newcomer Nicki Bacon as Nassim.
Producer Jannine Barnes shared that although you wear the headset and ‘watch’ the film on your own when you are in a group you will all see a slightly varied version based on how you navigate the narrative. So be sure to bring a friend or talk to your fellow VR film-goers afterwards to see what you may have missed. Or watch it a second time, and check out other parts of the set!
After my viewing, I felt a bit dazed by the immersive experience and intensity of the narrative. I found out in my audience group that most of us happened to look at a clock at the same - with some members noticing the passing of time at different intervals as they consciously looked out for it as the protagonist.
Unlike a book or a solid screenplay, reading a review about 30 Minutes of Danger can give you a taste of what to expect but as an interactive film medium, you really need to experience the story for yourself.