By MARIAM BASTANI
Starring Michelle Mylett, Kate Dickie, Al Weaver and Leah Viathan
Written by Lynn Renee Maxcy
Directed by Paul Raschid
Horror fans are witness to a time when interactive movies are just starting to gain some development traction. We’ve all had some experience with the concept—Choose Your Own Adventure books, branching adventure video games and the widest reaching current example of Black Mirror’s “Bandersnatch” episode on Netflix. Released today is the newest interactive flick THE COMPLEX, a live-action Sci-Fi thriller by Wales Interactive; a developer well-known for its Full Motion Video (FMV) games.
THE COMPLEX writer Lynn Renee Maxcy (The Handmaid’s Tale) introduces us to our main protagonist Dr Amy Tenant (Michelle Mylett) saving the lives of civilians subject to chemical attacks in the totalitarian state of Kindar. Fast-forward five years later to current day London and Dr Tenant is at the forefront of developing Nanocell Technology when there is a potentially devastating, bio-weapons attack. The story escalates quickly and Dr Tenant becomes one of two scientists trapped in her high security HQ lab. The main objective is to contain a pandemic, but viewers soon find out that there is more to the story. With time, and air running out, there is blood vomiting, gunfire, treachery and murder.
From the very first scene, viewers begin making decisions for Dr Tenant that forms her personality and relationships to the other characters. Viewers track the results of their decisions for Dr Tenant through a statistics screen that breaks down her Personality Score as well as Relationship Scores of each character.
Interactive movies have had a bit of a rough start and if you have ever participated in them, story arcs seem to have limited outcomes and fewer options for branching than their full gaming counterparts. Where THE COMPLEX wins me over is that decisions indeed seem to change the options of each character and it’s fun, even if the scenario is a bit close to home right now. Sure, there is at least one scenario that seemed to have a singular outcome, but THE COMPLEX boasts 9 different endings, 196 scenes to unlock and the stat tracking adds multiple dimensions to “game” play. Having played through one time, I am eager to discover the all the endings.
Who among us hasn’t yelled, “Don’t go in there!” at the screen at least once while watching our favorite horror movies? Movies like Funny Games and Koko-Di Koko-Da guide us into multiple perspectives and deliciously uncomfortable directions, but THE COMPLEX delivers some uniquely satisfying moments by allowing viewers to direct their characters into and out of danger—it opens up the viewer’s options of who they want to be. Where THE COMPLEX falls short is its execution of the story telling. This format is uncharted territory and it shows. Specifically, the character development and the intentionally comedic moments are uneven in delivery and depth. Ultimately, I found myself caring little for the characters and laughing at few of the jokes resulting in uneven audience engagement. The scenes primarily take place in a lab, but the story itself seems a bit clinical. The writer, actors and team responsible for this interactive movie are all obviously talented, but there is a balance yet to be found in the storytelling within interactive movies. While THE COMPLEX doesn’t nail it, it comes a lot closer than the ones before it. It is definitely worth multiple views and regardless of its shortcomings, I am intrigued. Play on!
THE COMPLEX is available for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.