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.