I don’t want to say too much, except this: if you have an iPhone, iPad, you should buy Haunting Melissa. Ok, you also have to like ghost stories. There is so much to complement from the outset, but I was waiting until I saw more of the story. First off, in an age full of instant gratification, here, in the Haunting Melissa app, you have to wait. You get doses of the story based off of some kind of timing mechanism from when you download the app, so everyone is on a slightly different schedule. One of the things I definitely believe about art is that it’s very form reflects the beliefs of the artist. In this case, Andrew Klavan and his pals have made something whose form is a unique expression of the truth. Here we have every viewer experiencing truth in their own way, however, there really is only one truth about the story, the viewer doesn’t affect the truth by viewing it, but the viewers do, in fact see it differently.
On a story level, the Haunting Melissa app/movie thing… has so far managed to avoid the number one fatality of suspense/horror ghost stories. As soon as the audience thinks: ‘Why don’t they just leave the cat…?’ or ‘If you know the place is haunted by malevolence, why stay?’ or the very basic ‘Just leave you idiot!’ This, I think is a major accomplishment through effective storytelling, unique pacing, and giving Melissa a compelling reason to stay. The story is almost entirely devoid of classic spooks, yet it spooks the viewer. And I think the more attentive the viewer, the more spooked you will be, yet almost never by the make-you-pay-attention-and-then-have-a-skull-jump-out-at-you kind.
For instance, the story takes place in Melissa’s home, while her father is away (so far). Her mother basically went crazy and died there. (I will certainly try to avoid anything that cannot be inferred from the trailers.) In her insanity, Melissa’s mother was obsessed with crosses. They are all over the house, and there are probably around twenty in the room she died in… yet, her tombstone looks like this:
That weirded me out. Why no cross? I will leave out my speculations, not because they are well informed, but because I am uncannily accurate in predicting plots with very little information. (By the way, the picture’s link will also take you to the Haunting Melissa official website, because I think you should get it, if only to support an innovative entertainment option.)
Also, it is just plain cool to get a piece of the story at unpredictable intervals. That is because the other main problem for ghost stories is that in 2 hours the move is over, and frequently you gag at the ghost at the end it is just too dumb. (The most egregious version of this is Signs, even though that’s an alien.) here, I don’t know how it will turn out, but there is only excitement, no disappointment. And I cannot skip ahead, no matter how much I want to know, and no matter how attention deficit I feel. I get just that one piece at a time. Here watch a trailer:
Anyway, I have always liked Klavan’s idea of a ghost story (see Ghost Story and Agnes Mallory) This just continues the winning streak. I hope both for more ghost stories from Andrew Klavan, and for more entertainment apps like this.