Robert Frost has been frightening lit majors for years. For the rest of us, however, the American poet's thoughtful 1916 masterpiece "The Road Not Taken," with its quiet lines about paths diverging in a yellow wood, hasn't been the stuff of nightmares.
Director Lloyd Lee Choi employs Frost's contemplative stanzas to striking effect as the voiceover in this two-minute trailer for Until Dawn, a horror/survival game dropping next week for the Sony PlayStation 4.
"Until Dawn is based around choice and consequence as you play through the story, and I immediately thought of the Frost poem and how interesting it could be under darker circumstances," Choi tells AdFreak.
The creepy spot, filmed in the wilds of Vancouver over two recent steamy summer nights, plays out like a scene from a fever dream—or a horror flick. A young woman dashes from a cabin into the misty forest. Clearly running for her life and immensely afraid, she must choose between two paths that wind through the twisted trees. Both are fraught with peril. Will she confront the lurking terrors that wait along these roads, or perhaps work out an entirely unexpected route to salvation?
As she mulls her options, Frost's words—"And sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler, long I stood/And looked down one as far as I could/To where it bent in the undergrowth"—take on an eerie menace. The poem becomes a kind of inner monologue, giving voice to the women's tortured thoughts as she struggles with a decision that could spell life or death. (In this context, it sounds almost like something by Edgar Allan Poe.)
"I love the poem's message, that you construct your own life narrative in retrospect, and really, the choices you make are the only ones you know," says Choi. "In some ways, you're fooling yourself thinking the other path could've led to a better life or result. It's kind of dark and bittersweet, that your life is what it is, completely out of your control, and is in some ways fateful."
Choi, whose work ranges from Cornetto's sweet lesbian love story to this viral shaggy-dog tale for Chevrolet, handles PlayStation's hair-raising scenario with much aplomb. The filmmaker wisely keeps his heroine center-frame, providing an emotional focus for viewers throughout, with the night terrors glimpsed briefly for maximum impact.
"Looking over to our main villain was always amusing, and frightening, as he waited around set," recalls Choi. "He was the nicest guy with a looming physical presence. And after the first few takes, he would ask under that mask, 'So, was that OK?' I imagined a sequel, where we find out he's actually a really nice dude who's just been misunderstood, and he's just angry because his mask is too tight and he can't take it off."
Mofilm, a content-sourcing company based in London, invited directors to pitch ideas for the project, and Choi's concept won out. So far, the trailer has been released on GameStop digital properties, and will appear on PlayStation's blog and YouTube channels. It could also run in European cinemas.
While scouting locations for the film, Choi recalls meeting another traveler who was pursuing a surprisingly similar path. "We came across a half-naked man with a chainsaw yelling at us in a menacing voice," he says. "And I thought, 'This can't be happening!' "
The punch line? Says Choi: "He was filming a lumberjack workout video."
Client: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Account Director: Carter Hahn
Account Manager: Garrett Black
Production Company: The Herd Films
Starring: Debs Howard
Villain: Carson Bradshaw
Voice-over: Steve Bailey
Director: Lloyd Lee Choi
Executive Producer: Jordan Barber
Cinematographer: Devin Karringten
Production Designer: Caitlin Byrnes
Art Director: Rebecca Wass
Casting: Rena Kawabata
Production Coordinator: Madeleine Davis
Gaffer: Kyle Pigeau
Editor: Lloyd Lee Choi
Sound Design: Kirby Meador
Colourist: David Tomiak
Hair/MU: Siobhan Uy
1st AC: Nick Malcolm
2nd AC: Evan West
Key Grip: Ritchie Lyon
Best Boy: Teo Jara
Swing: Travis Briggs
Swing: Marc Beaudet
Balloon Tech: Shayne Zwickel
Craft Services: Emily O'Brien
BTS Photographer: Lu Zhang