Haunting Melissa Review
Haunting Melissa delivers chills and thrills to your iPad
Haunting Melissa is the brainchild of Neal Edelstein, producer of big screen scares like the surreal thriller penned by David Lynch Mulholland Drive and nail-biting horror The Ring, and aims to revolutionise the distribution of movies on mobile devices.
It goes without saying that Haunting Melissa isn’t an app in the traditional sense. In fact, it is arguable whether the app offers any features that make it, well, an app. In short, Haunting Melissa is a downloadable episodic series based around Melissa (played by Kassia Warshawski), who experiences some paranormal activity in the farmhouse that she shares with her father and the memories of her dead mother. The app comes with the first episode (or chapter) for free, but viewing the rest of the chapters comes at a cost of either £10.49 SD/£16.99 HD for the whole season or, alternatively, you can purchase each chapter on its own for £1.49 SD/£1.99 HD.
So why is it being released as an app and not as a TV series? The whole point of Haunting Melissa is to keep you on a knife-edge. Episodes are released sporadically – there’s no set release date and your friends may receive the next episode before you do. All this uncertainty is going to make you nervous, which fulfils the aim of the app! If one of your favourite pastimes is bingeing on box sets from Netflix and LoveFilm, Haunting Melissa will either teach you some patience or drive you mad with anticipation.
From a functionality perspective, Haunting Melissa is extremely easy to use and keeps the buttons, icons and general clutter to a minimum. The app is controlled from a selection of five icons in the bottom left-hand corner of the app interface. Their functions range from Settings – where you can get help using the app or purchase a Season Pass – to Sharing, where you can get all of your friends involved with the Haunting Melissa adventure. When you’re watching a chapter, the video control functions are virtually identical to those in the Movie app on your iPad or iPhone.
Despite the brilliant concept and innovative method of distribution, Haunting Melissa suffers from a serious lack of in-app interactivity. The extent of user interactivity is limited to connecting to external sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the Haunting Melissa community – other than that, there’s not much else to do other than sit and wait for the next chapter to arrive. The app could really benefit from taking a ‘choose your adventure’ format, allowing the user to have an influence and make choices with regards to the direction the story takes.
However, it should be noted that there is a lot to be gained from watching again. Each time you re-watch a chapter, certain details appear and disappear. In the first chapter for example, Melissa and her friend creep around the farmhouse in search of the source of an unsettling mewing sound coming from one of the rooms. As the camera pans around one of the rooms, a face can be briefly glimpsed in a shadow in the corner. But if you watch the chapter for a second time, the face has mysteriously vanished! It’s enough for anyone to question their own vision and perception.
It would be perfectly acceptable to assume that a creepy, atmospheric series such as Haunting Melissa would be negatively affected by being scaled-down from a cinema size screen to the more modest screens of the iPad, iPhone and iPod. However, as the app is designed to immerse you into Melissa’s world, it works brilliantly and the sound has been designed to ramp up the spooky factor. If you prefer a larger screen though, Haunting Melissa supports AirPlay for Apple TV; simply tap the icon in each chapter to activate this.
Whether you’ll enjoy the story of Haunting Melissa is down to your own tastes. If even the most terrifying of horror movies has no effect on you, then you’ll probably find this story a little tame. However, if the mere mention of ghosts and ghouls brings you out in a sweat, tuck yourself in a dark corner.
A great concept that creates tension but could be improved by allowing users to choose their own story.
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