Everything feels peaceful and calm, floating through a dark sparkling void with faint sounds beginning to break the eerie silence. This sounds like a nice introduction to some sci-fi movie or cartoon, awaiting the sun to break past a planet and fill your vision with glowing light light. In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth, as you’ll soon find that dark void isn’t the cosmos, and those sounds suddenly become legible screams. And so begins the Alien: Covenant In Utero virtual reality (VR) experience.
The Alien franchise is one of the best known in both the sci-fi and horror franchises. While it had a stellar beginning the series did lose its way somewhat, but luckily the original director, Ridley Scott, decided to make some prequels to bring it back on track. 2012’s Prometheus started the journey and next month sees the next instalment, Alien: Covenant hit theatres. Recently Scott has been getting more involved in VR, giving his 2015 film The Martian a VR makeover to put fans onto the surface of Mars. This month also saw him announce RSA VR studio, which brings us onto Alien: Covenant In Utero.
Everyone knows the famous xenomorphs from the films but for Alien: Covenant In Utero you not only get to see some of the new neomorph creature, you get to be it. There’s been a chest bursting scene in every Alien film of some description, now though, you’re on the inside trying to get out. This is just as creepy as you’d imagine it to be – watching the short VR film before bed might not be the best course of action – as your eyes develop you can make out more and more of your hosts internals, blood vessels, bones, even listening to their heart beat, all the while you’re growing, developing. You can see a couple of fingers split and make hands, and claws, for one purpose, escape.
Just as it would be for the neomorph, leaving the host is the most confusing part of the whole experience. These creatures aren’t chest bursters, they breakout through the spine and as you drop there’s a few moments where you need to re-orientate yourself, realising you’ve now landed on the floor of a medical facility, the ruptured corpse of some unlucky space traveller strewn over a bed above you, blood and goo flying everywhere.
As is usually the case, there’s another unfortunate individual nearby locked in the same room that has the unenviable task of providing the creatures first proper meal, no matter how much they scream and fight, they are lunch.
Alien: Covenant In Utero is certainly captivating for its short two minute runtime. Directed by David Karlak, the VR experience does exactly what’s intended of it, increasing the anticipation for the cinematic release of Alien: Covenant. Sure it would have been awesome if it was longer, gave more of the film away or been more interactive – being able to scuttle about would have been cool – but at the end of the day it’s a film teaser and quite frankly its done its job. The movie launches on 19th May and that seems too far away.