David Lynch wants to bring Twin Peaks viewers into his imaginary world via virtual reality.
Last weekend in downtown Los Angeles, Showtime previewed its first Twin Peaks VR experience, which will be available for fans to buy on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift sometime in 2019. The demo, on display at the Festival of Disruption—a two-day event curated by Lynch where art, music and meditation intersect—immersed viewers into key scenes of the show. However, the full experience will eventually be a one-hour production created by Showtime and Collider, with guidance from Lynch himself.
The scene begins in Glastonbury Grove, the forest setting familiar to anyone who’s seen the show. Using a flashlight in one hand, the viewer is able to “walk” through the forest at night before coming to a small pool of water that suddenly fills with blood.
That’s right: Twin Peaks for VR aims to be just as dramatic as Twin Peaks on the small screen.
“Our initial thoughts were how to not make [the Twin Peaks VR experience] a horror game and just have that tension,” said Joey Rassool, creative director at Collider. “One of the beauties of Twin Peaks as a show is that it has that uneasiness without being straight horror, and that’s one of the things we’ve been striving for here.”
Immediately after the pool turns to blood, viewers are transported to the Red Room, an extra-dimensional space that’s been a key feature of Twin Peaks in both the original series from the 1990s and the modern revival that aired last year. (It’s also a location frequently visited by the show’s main character, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper.) Inside the room, viewers aren’t able to walk like they can in some VR experiences, but they’re able to teleport within the room as it rapidly changes in ways similar to what happens in the show itself. (One moment, a statue falls over before running around as a shadow on the other side of a curtain. In another, users can pick up a coffee mug that won’t empty until the second time it’s picked up.) The demo ends as a white horse appears in the room in the distance, surrounded in darkness but unreachable.
Rassool, whose team recently pivoted to the immersive media space, said he noticed that some parts of Cooper’s escape from the Red Room felt like a video game. That’s something Showtime noticed as well, prompting the companies to build an experience around it.
“We’ve seen the Red Room a couple of times throughout the show,” he said. “Sometimes it’s different, sometimes it’s exactly the same, sometimes it’s subtly different, sometimes different people see it in different ways. And so that’s something that we wanted to latch onto with this experience—the idea to look at something and look at it again and see something that is slightly different.”
The experience might not be interesting to anyone who hasn’t already seen at least some of the show’s three seasons. However, it provides a look into how studios are beginning to immerse viewers beyond a two-dimensional screen, to both entertain audiences in what they know and engage them with what they don’t. However, it still has the eerie feeling of the unexpected, creating suspense and fear within the show.
Twin Peaks in VR, however, is nowhere near as immersive as some VR experiences in the market. For example, users can’t walk around, even though it’s powered by a platform that enables mobility.
Because the show itself can’t be watched in 360 degrees, Collider had to recreate parts of settings that didn’t previously exist—like the ceiling of the Red Room. Each time Collider would make sure to get sign off from Showtime and David Lynch to make sure their recreation was within the same vision as the original creators.
While Collider has been working with Showtime on the project, everything has to be reviewed and approved by Lynch. For example, Rassool said he once dropped off a VR headset for Lynch to try and got it back with feedback 24 hours later.
“[T]he more we show, and the more we progress with this development, hopefully the more [Lynch] will want to be involved,” Rassool said. “And the more we can do with maybe even some new narrative—because I’m not going to write new narrative for this. I’m only ever going to let David Lynch [write].”