This Horror Movie Was Done Entirely In Snapchat

The trailer for Sickhouse is your basic collection of horror movie clichés: pretty teens drinking and smoking in the dark; arbitrary whispering; uplit faces because uplighting is spooky. Nothing special — except that the entire movie was done in Snapchat.

Filmmaker Hannah Macpherson recorded Sickhouse, which clocks in at 68 minutes, on iPhones in ten-second clips over five days. During filming, she uploaded each clip to lead actress Andrea Russert’s Snapchat account, allowing Russert’s hundreds of thousands of followers to view the individual videos during their daily Snapchatting. Macpherson didn’t give any indication that the footage was staged, so a fair amount of Russert’s followers seemed to think it was real — you can see comments from users in the trailer asking about her safety — thus providing another boost for the film’s profile.

If you Google “Sickhouse”, the first link takes you to an old-school-style website outlining “The Legend of Sickhouse & Sickwife.” The legend revolves around married couple Charlotte and Joseph Bowman and Charlotte’s mysterious illness and disappearance in the 1970s. After they relocated from their home in California to Joseph’s cabin in the woods, which was said to have been used for gory purposes during Prohibition, Charlotte/Sickwife was never seen again. The site also lays out rules for visiting the cabin and how to avoid contracting Charlotte/Sickwife’s strange illness in the process. For bonus 90s web design points, the site incorporates pink and bright green font against a starry black background, “Campaign Against Frames!” and Netscape buttons, and assortments of bizarre characters where apostrophes should be. As marketing campaigns go, this is much more on the immersive side.

Sickhouse trailer

Since Snapchat clips disappear within 24 hours, you won’t be able to find the original ten-second videos from the movie. Instead, you can download the Director’s Cut from Vimeo for $5.99, which includes new additional footage that was never posted to Snapchat. In keeping with the movie’s origins and creation, Sickhouse is optimized for mobile devices, so you can watch it on the go.

In many ways, this is far from groundbreaking. The found footage and unseen spooky presence were done back in 1999 by The Blair Witch Project, and have been copied by various horror movies since then. The title also leaves something to be desired, sounding more like the name of an early-2000s nu-metal/post-grunge alternative band (in the vein of Saliva) than a promising horror movie. However, the use of Snapchat could herald a new kind of filmmaking that actively involves the audience from the start, and makes clever use of everyday technology to blur the lines between reality and fiction.