The Outbreak: Choose Your Path Online Zombie Movie

by Bill Ward on October 4, 2008

in Film & TV

Now this is pretty cool. The Outbreak is a short film with a forking narrative path that lets you choose how the central character deals with a developing zombie crisis. So at the end of each ‘chapter’ of a few minutes you select how to proceed. Kill the wounded (and possibly infected) man, or let him live? Board up the windows, or push furniture in front of the door? What’s safer — going down into the basement, or out the back door?

The novelty of choosing your way is fun, even if it sometimes seems as if no amount of logic or common sense can really help you choose the correct path. And make no mistake, there is only one correct path. Fortunately you do not need to restart the film with each death (and you will die), and a nice narrative tree appears where you can choose a different decision or even go back and explore a completely different path. All of the various segments are worth watching, even if you expect to die based on having seen another piece of the film. It’s a great idea, and even if it’s slightly underdeveloped in The Outbreak it really does show how this kind of storytelling could be an exciting and viable format for short, interactive film.

But going beyond the freshness of the concept is the slickness of its presentation, which elevates the whole thing completely. The special effects, acting, and production values are at least as good many b grade horror films. The nod to the various tropes of zombie apocalypse scenarios, and the smart realization that the chief appeal of zombie fiction and film is the vicarious thrill of asking yourself ‘what would I do to survive in this situation?’ and playing up to that with an interactive format, makes this clever little film a real winner.

And, just in case you didn’t catch the words ‘zombie’ and ‘horror,’ this film is full of violence, swearing, and scary biting. If you don’t like that stuff then give it a dodge — the rest of us will grab our bats and shotguns, board-up the windows, and bicker and argue amongst ourselves until someone does something stupid like open the door and let the hungry dead inside.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

cindy October 4, 2008 at 7:39 pm

like choose your own adventures!
i wonder if they still make those books?
congrats on the site overhaul, bill!
everything looks great!

Bill Ward October 4, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Thanks Cindy, I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s still nowhere near as slick as your page though. ;)

There was some recent talk about choose-your-own-adventures at SFReader as I recall, prompted by John O’Neill’s whimsical insert in the latest Black Gate. I don’t think they exist anymore for kids, as the market is basically competing with video games, though I know at BlackGate.com they’ve shown some solo adventure gaming books for the old school rpg crowd.

But those adventure books do bring a nostalgic sigh to us over thirty types — maybe we’ll see more web-based stuff like The Outbreak carve out it’s own niche in the coming years. It’s certainly a fun concept.

Ryan January 15, 2009 at 9:07 pm

This is a great experience, Bill, well executed and very unique…perfect for the subject matter. Have you written about the production of The Outbreak, as I’m interested in the technical aspects of the film? Again, great job!

Bill Ward January 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Hey Ryan, I don’t know much about the background of this — I remember searching for more info when I originally posted this and all I found was one of the actor’s myspace pages. I think it would be interesting to find out more, and I’d like ot see more films like this as well.

John O'Neill March 31, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Hi Bill!

>There was some recent talk about choose-your-own-adventures at SFReader
> as I recall, prompted by John O’Neill’s whimsical insert in the latest
> Black Gate.

Sorry to pick up on this so late… but I’d LOVE to read that thread, if you can point me to it!

- John

Bill Ward March 31, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Hey John — I couldn’t find the thread though I thought it was in the BG forum, but the one I had in mind is one I believe you participated in. It wasn’t a really detailed look at choose your own adventures, I don’t think — more like a few of us wishing someone would put together a good article on the subject for BG.

I’d still like to find some more web videos like this, a really great idea that takes advantage of the internet.

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