Horror-movie producer Neal Edelstein challenged traditional distribution methods in 2013 with the launch of Haunting Melissa, a genre film that was released in installments through an iPhone and iPad app. Now he’s back to work on the second installment of the project, Haunting Melissa 2, which has begun principal photography in Calgary, Canada.
Haunting Melissa 2, developed by Edelstein’s Hooked Digital Media, will pick up one month after the events of the first film, which followed a teenage girl who believed her dead mother was haunting her. Best-selling author Andrew Klavan (True Crime) returned to pen the script for the sequel, which stars Kassia Warshawski as the title character.
The app will debut later this year on the recently unveiled iOS 8 Apple mobile operating system and will use many of the features that drove more than 5.5 million viewers to the first installment. Edelstein tells The Hollywood Reporter one of the features that resonated with fans was the dynamic story element, a proprietary technology that changes parts of the story upon repeat viewing.
“When we first launched Haunting Melissa, we didn’t promote the dynamic story elements,” says Edelstein, who was a producer on The Ring and Mulholland Drive. “People were going back and watching and finding these changed elements. It just became a groundswell of conversation. You can see in the data that repeat viewing is really high because it becomes a scavenger hunt in a way.”
Haunting Melissa 2 will follow a similar distribution strategy as the first app, where new installments of varying lengths will be introduced on a sporadic schedule and without warning, to create a sense of suspense around the project. It’s a distribution model that Edelstein says he wants to expand to other projects, including stories in the comedy genre.
“It’s really making it an engaging app experience and making an engaging story experience,” he says. “There’s a real positive response from the fans about the app and the storytelling that will continue to drive downloads and views.”