Ed. Note: Since this article was first published, some of the links to the game have changed. We have updated the links so that they are current to November 21, 2006.
The scene opens with a man tied up and struggling. He’s lying in a white room with a mattress on the floor. A man in a white mask enters carrying a knife which he uses to free the bonds around the captive’s hands. As he leaves, he whispers something into the camera. All we know is he is here against his will
The captive, the Human Pet, has freed himself from his leg restraints and is pacing about the room screaming, asking if anyone can hear him. He finds the camera and, for the first time, we get a good look at his face. Suddenly the face turns into a mask and as he backs away, we see that he’s holding a baseball bat and the Human Pet is laying on the mattress in obvious pain. You will see everything.
This is how the interactive and fictional horror story began three weeks ago. There have been three videos since then, with a new one appearing on a regular weekly basis, allowing us to learn more about the man in the mask and his pet, which he’s named Sunny. The man in the mask has not only uploaded the videos, but has interacted with his audience, going as far as placing the life of his pet in the audience’s hands. There have been messages hidden in the film and in the YouTube tags attached to the short movies that have led the audience to Bible passages that provide more symbolic insight into this man and his motivations.
Since the success of Lonelygirl15, we’ve seen a number of stories told through episodic YouTube videos. While few are well told, intriguing or truly interactive, The Human Pet, directed by the fictional Sam Deercot (anagram of Codemaster) is one to check out. It is a very interesting (if not controversial) story and has provided the audience with some power over the story, albeit purely an illusion. Additionally, while the videos are short and filled with obvious and simple devices, they are quite effective and, considering the subject matter, beautiful. The allegorical shot of the Man, mask off and back to the camera, at the Seder table lit only by candles is a stunning picture ripe with visual delight. The latest video, The Stalker, makes effective use of a classic music cliche as the tension mounts and pulls you to the edge of your seat before letting you settle back down as it sinks in that Sunny is not the first.
Like all good art, The Human Pet invites discussion. The idea of the subject matter is horrid – a human, held captive with a number of other victims preceding him. Even more scary is the idea that this is really happening and that we are watching and participating as it unfolds. Is it possible that such a thing is real? How far should fiction go in blurring that line and, more philosophically, can we ever know what is real and what is fictional? It was brought to my own attention as I was writing this that while this may in fact be art, I have no actual evidence that it is fictional. To that, I reply: watch the movies and contact Sam Deercot yourself. The codes, the multiple interactions (both public and private) from Sam, and a number of shots in the film suggest that this is, just as it claims to be, an interactive, fictional horror story.
Update: The user account on YouTube has been suspended and the videos were removed as violating the Terms of Service.