Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Horror Goes Interactive: Nick Nocture vs. Jack Torrance

I am a big old sucker for creepypasta and weird horror -- and of late, my big source for that has been the Night Mind YouTube channel, hosted by Nick Nocturne. Nick kicked off his channel doing full-blown analyses of the big three Slenderman series... and then just kept going. Nowadays, his channel is a mix of previews and reviews of indie horror and ARGs, advice for up-and-coming creators, and Wham City Comedy love (which, let's be real, is completely warranted).

Regular viewers will note a few things about Nick's recent releases. For one thing, he's upgraded his "office" (a digital depiction thereof). For another, he's talked here and there about how he's looking for another series that fills him with as much intrigue and excitement as those original Big Three did. And, for a third, he started having late-night livestreams, inviting viewers to come together to piece apart the latest episodes of Tribe Twelve and EverymanHYBRID.

And now the madman is out in the field, chasing after a YouTube series/ARG on his own.

Nick covered the YouTube channel Jack Torrance a while back on his channel. The fiction of the piece seems to be a mix of Super 8 vids found in a pile of old boxes, combined with a series of modern videos depicting home repairs and a potential abduction (or worse). If you want the whole breakdown, you can see Nick's video on it here. And before you ask, no, there don't seem to be any solid links to the channels' namesake from The Shining at this point.

Jack Torrance eventually went dark, with seemingly no sign of following up on the story threads it had laid out. Then, a few days ago, it did a livestream, titled "Find me." While many horror series and ARGs actually do thrive on viewer interaction (see EverymanHYBRID, later stages of BEN Drowned, and the currently active @TheSunVanished), Jack Torrance never went this direction before.

And suddenly, Nick perked right up.

Here's Jack Torrance's livestream.

Here's Nick Nocturne's throwdown.

And here (in the description) is Jack Torrance's acceptance.

The crazy cat has gone down to Texas in response, leaving a Night Mind calling card at three of the five relevant locations he found (two were private residences, thus he left them alone and undocumented). Here's his first in-the-field report.

Since then, things have gotten even wilder, with Nick and Jack just missing crossing paths, some taunting, and even a few "birthday presents" popping up in a dead drop. Banking this story early turned out to be both good and bad... the good behind that I've had it waiting, the bad being that most of the big developments happened after I wrote this piece and I'm sliding in the night before it goes up to update.

What kind of updates?

Here's Nick's second report, covering the first real contact between the two, including signs that Jack is watching Nick as much as Nick is watching Jack. And then there's Nick's own piece of found footage, which is turning the whole concept of engagement for Jack Torrance's channel on its head.

So why is this a thing? Why am I bringing this up? Because this is some next-level shit, and it's also a good high-sign of one of my favorite new branches of the indie horror genre.

Thomas Dolby and Nine Inch Nails both played with ARG concepts before they were popular ("Map of the Floating City" and "Year Zero," respectively), and a few films in the late 90s and early naughties toyed with the idea of viewer interaction to boost hype. So the idea of audience involvement isn't new or revolutionary. What is new and revolutionary is the idea of creating mysteries, horror, and psychological drama where the audience is a character.

And with Nick's involvement in the Jack Torrance side of things -- which is looking more and more like it's the channel owner's anniversary present to the Night Mind community -- we're seeing it evolve yet again. Now we have someone who's devoted himself to both analysis of dark media and bringing people together with it indulging in the fan interaction side of things. And that's a degree of positive mobilization that I don't believe we've yet encountered.

For those of us who are into the grim and psychological, ARGs scratch the itch of wishing we could safely engage with the creepy plots we witness in our entertainment. And with one of the genre's leading analysts diving right in and bringing us along with him, I'm hoping for a wild ride.

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