The stock characters in most horror movies usually spend 88 minutes or so trying to evade a deranged killer, to varying levels of success. Staying alive in such films would prove a lot more difficult, though, if each character’s personal information were as readily available as the average Facebook user’s--and if the deranged killer had Wi-Fi.
Takethislollipop.com is an interactive online experience that brings viewers into the narrative via their Facebook profiles. Released conveniently close to Halloween, this single-serving site makes the idea of “Facebook-stalking” eerily literal.
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Three other smart, interactive uses of your social media data.
2// /The Wilderness Downtown
The most acclaimed bit of social interaction yet, Wilderness Downtown uses Google Maps and HTML5 to create an emotional, immersive video experience for the band Arcade Fire's "We Used To Wait."
3// Swedish Public Television
A campaign for the channel makes you, the viewer, a hero in an interactive video that salutes Swedes who pay their public broadcasting fee.
By integrating a highly topical modern fear into tried-and-true horror movie tropes, and adding a personal twist, the creators of Takethislollipop.com have tapped into something spooky that’s bound to hit a nerve. Although Halloween is still two weeks away, it’s doubtful that anyone concerned with privacy in the digital era will see anything more frightening before then.
After allowing the site access to your profile, users click on a blue lollipop which thrusts them into the familiar mise en scene of a horror movie. The camera floats languidly down a dank hallway to the static-punctured strains of a 1950s song about candy shops. In a room at the end of the hall, there’s a man in a sooty undershirt hunched over a computer. He looks like a malnourished Daniel Craig, and he doesn’t seem happy at all.
As the mystery man’s dirty fingernails pound against the keys, it becomes clear what’s on the screen: a Facebook profile. Not just any profile, though; it’s the viewer’s very own. The interactivity is seamless; the stalker’s reflection is clearly visible, glaring off the pictures on the screen. As the creepy erstwhile James Bond scrolls along, becoming increasingly agitated with what he sees, users will recognize their old status updates and messages from friends.
The next reveal arrives with shrieking keyboard stabs--the stalker has found the user’s location and is now looking at driving instructions. Slowly he reaches up and starts caressing the profile picture displayed onscreen. As the soundtrack swells ever higher, he turns his head to face the viewer and a fiendish smile spreads across his face.
The stalker is suddenly inside a car, racing down the road. Hyper jump cuts show his tortured screams behind the wheel before cutting back to his intensely focused driving face. The project was directed by Jason Zada out of production company Tool of North America.
The project isn't the first social media-connected campaign that makes viewers a part of the story (see sidebar). And the horror execution here may be a little predictable. But the format itself is a great showcase for the potential of socially enabled, seamlessly interactive video as genre entertainment. Here it’s horror, but the device would work in another context and genre. Of course, if this is meant to be a public service message about privacy, it may be a little counterproductive--the video does nothing so much as demonstrate the entertaining upside of making your life an open book.